Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—An Iraqi military operation to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will be launched at the start of the new year, Iraq’s Nineveh governorate council has announced.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, council member Ghazwan Hamid said around 80,000 troops will be involved in the offensive, and that preparations for the operation were already underway.
Iraqi soldiers who fled their posts in Mosul upon the city’s capture by ISIS back in June will be reintroduced into the Iraqi Army as part of the operation, Hamid said.
Members of the Nineveh police force will also be involved, as will fighters from the Kurdish Peshmerga, “who will be contributing to the operation by capturing the Nineveh plains area [which borders the northern and eastern regions of Mosul], and then surrounding the city from every direction.”
Training camps for the operation have now been set up in the Kurdistan region, Hamid said, adding that many of those currently being trained were previously members of the Iraqi armed forces.
“As for the rest, they comprise volunteers and members of Nineveh’s police force, all of whom need intense training in order to ready them for the upcoming battle,” he said.
Mosul is the Nineveh governorate’s capital city.
In contrast to Hamid’s claim that Peshmerga fighters would be involved in the battle, however, Halkord Hikmet, the official spokesman for the Kurdish force, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are adhering to [our role in] in the international [anti-ISIS] coalition currently in place, and of which the Peshmerga are an essential part. As for Mosul, the Peshmerga has its own plan in the fight against ISIS [here].”
“For this reason, I don’t believe that we would be able at this time to participate in the operation to recapture Mosul, because our forces are now engaged with ISIS on a long, wide front,” he said.
He added, however, that the Peshmerga “might be able to offer them [the Iraqi force] help in this operation, though this is yet to be decided.”
Mosul was captured by ISIS in June following a lightning advance across northern Iraq which saw the group capture considerable swaths of the country’s territory.
Many observers were surprised by the way the Iraqi army stationed in and around Mosul threw down their weapons, took off their uniforms, and abandoned their posts in the face of the extremist group’s attack, especially after years of receiving training and assistance to the tune of billions of dollars from the US Army.
Washington has since launched a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and recently dispatched an additional 1,500 troops back to Iraq to join hundreds already training Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.
President Obama has also requested 5.6 billion US dollars from Congress in order to fund operations in Iraq, which will include the training of 12 new brigades of Iraqi troops—including three Kurdish brigades—according to plans announced last week by the Pentagon.
Speaking to reporters after advising a military exercise in California, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on Sunday that Special Forces had already begun training and advising Iraqi security forces in Iraq’s vast western Anbar province.