Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Baghdad has transferred its first shipment of arms to the forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, in preparation for a military offensive to liberate the city of Mosul, the Nineveh Provincial Council announced on Tuesday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nineveh Provincial Council member Ghazwan Hamed confirmed that more than 60 armored vehicles, in addition to shipments of light and medium arms, had reached Erbil International Airport as part of preparations for a push to recapture Iraq’s second city, which has been under ISIS control since June.
“Preparations are underway for the operation to retake Mosul, particularly after Gen. Riyad Jalal Tawfiq was appointed commander of Nineveh Operations Command by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi,” he said.
Tawfiq is a prominent member of the Obeidi tribe and has served in a number of senior positions within the Iraqi military, including command of Iraq’s ground forces. He is known to have a good relationship with Iraq’s Shi’ites and Kurds, who will also participate in the military offensive to recapture Mosul.
“The first shipment of medium weapons which arrived at Erbil International airport will be distributed to the forces that will participate in the liberation of Mosul. The preparations are taking place in coordination with Peshmerga forces and the approval of the Peshmerga Ministry,” Hamed said.
The Nineveh Provincial Council member confirmed that Iraqi regular forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Nineveh police forces, and local tribal fighters will cooperate in an upcoming campaign to recapture Mosul.
He added that Iraqi authorities have even drawn up security plans for Mosul following the liberation of the city, with Mosul being split into different areas under the protection of community-based forces.
“In addition to this, a National Guard force will be established comprised of local forces which will be responsible for security and defending the people of Nineveh,” Hamad told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The latest preparations came as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi appealed to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for more military aid, saying that Iraq’s military has recently made progress against ISIS but needs more air support and heavy weaponry in order to prevail over the jihadist group.
Hagel flew to Baghdad on Tuesday to meet with senior Iraqi leaders and discuss the latest developments in the fight against ISIS.
During his meeting with Hagel, Abadi said: “ISIS is on the descent at the moment. Our forces are very much on the ground. But they need more air power and more heavy weaponry.”