Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi military and Kurdish forces launched coordinated attacks on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions around the city of Mosul on Wednesday, ahead of a widely-anticipated major military offensive to liberate the city expected later this year.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a major assault on territory east of Mosul, with the support of US-led anti-ISIS coalition airstrikes. Kurdish forces were also able to liberate Wankie, a district of the Kurdish town of Tel Afar west of Mosul, in addition to other Kurdish areas. According to local media, Peshmerga also recaptured the villages of Tel Reem, Tel Khidir, Jamrud, Karaj and Shiha, cutting off and pushing back ISIS fighters in the region.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Peshmerga Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jamal Mohamed claimed that Peshmerga forces had launched a multi-pronged attack on ISIS-held territory from three directions on Wednesday, in what he described as a highly-organized and coordinated military offensive.
“We regained control of strategic areas west of Mount Badush which links Mosul to Tal Afar. ISIS was using this area to navigate between Sinjar, Tal Afar, Mosul and Syria,” he said.
“The main objective of this military operation was to secure Mosul dam, and secure a number of villages that ISIS was using to target this dam with its long-range weapons,” he added.
However Wednesday’s offensive also had a more long-term objective in mind, in particular setting the stage for an expected major offensive against Mosul this spring. ISIS captured Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014, after having taken over significant territory in Anbar and Nineveh province, meeting little resistance from government forces in the process. However the ISIS advance northwards was stalled after Peshmerga forces advanced to take control of Kirkuk governorate, while the group has subsequently been pushed back in other areas following the involvement of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
“The territory that we secured will be a factor in assisting Iraqi forces to liberate Mosul, particularly as we are now in control of one of the main routes leading to the city,” Gen. Mohamed said.
Wednesday’s attack came on the same day that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi appealed to the US-led coalition and the international community to do more to support Iraqi troops in the battle against ISIS.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Abadi warned that the anti-ISIS coalition had failed to live up to its responsibilities in a number of key areas, particularly regarding the training of local forces.
“We are in this almost on our own. There is a lot being said and spoken, but very little on the ground,” he said.