Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Peshmerga forces have surrounded Mosul from three sides ahead of a planned operation to liberate the city from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) control, a senior Peshmerga official said.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Peshmerga Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jamal Mohamed said: “Over the past few months, Peshmerga forces have been able to make significant advances east, west and north of Mosul and our operations there have completely cut off ISIS from these areas.”
“Our forces are now very close to Mosul. In some cases we are no further than 10–15 kilometers [6.2–9.3 miles] from the city and are in control of all the main bridges in the [surrounding] Eski and Al-Kasak area, which is the main link between Mosul and Tal Afar,” he added.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been gradually advancing on Iraq’s second city, which has been under ISIS control since June 2014. Baghdad has also moved forward with controversial plans to form a National Guard to assist in the ongoing fight against ISIS, with Kurdish Peshmerga forces also entering a new phase of training after receiving renewed pledges of foreign military assistance.
Italy’s top defense official Luigi Benelli Manetelli on Tuesday pledged that his country would provide arms, ammunition and advanced weaponry to Peshmerga forces, while more than 50 Italian military experts are already providing Kurdish forces with training in the semi-autonomous region. Canadian and US experts have already trained as many as 4,000 Kurdish policemen, a local official said. The new Iraqi and Kurdish forces will not only assist in the fight against ISIS, but seek to ensure that any liberated territory does not fall back into ISIS hands.
Peshmerga Col. Kamran Hawrami told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are in control of the final point of the Eski and Al-Kasak areas. Our next move will be towards Mosul, and we are just waiting for orders to be issued.”
“ISIS positions within Mosul are now within range of our guns and missiles, and we are continuously targeting them,” he added.