London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Planning for the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters is complete, Nineveh Governor Atheel Al-Nujaifi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday, adding that a long-awaited Iraqi military offensive to recapture the city is set to get underway “soon.”
“The Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and the international coalition have put plans in place for the battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS control . . . What is postponing the implementation of these plans is ensuring that contingency plans to protect our people in the city are ready and I assume the process will not be delayed much longer,” Nujaifi said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from the city of Alqosh, in Nineveh Province, just 16 miles (25 kilometers) from Mosul, Nujaifi claimed to be doing everything in his power to continue administering the affairs of Nineveh despite facing internal rivalries from within the provincial council and external challenges due to ISIS’s ongoing presence in the province.
“I am still carrying out my duties as governor of Nineveh. While there are some disputes with some members of the provincial council, this is only natural under these exceptionally difficult circumstances,” he said.
Nujaifi revealed that Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the anti-ISIS international coalition, have liberated strategic territory in the governorate from ISIS, forcing jihadist fighters to retreat ahead of the expected major offensive on Mosul. “Until today, a total of nine administrative districts have been liberated from ISIS,” Nujaifi said.
Peshmerga forces have taken up position just 6 miles (10 kilometers) away from Mosul, while Iraqi military and police forces have established checkpoints 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the city. As for preparations for the forthcoming advance, the governor told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Three training camps have been established to prepare for this, including two camps to train national mobilization volunteers. We have a total of 3,000 volunteers from all ethnic and religious backgrounds in Nineveh governorate.”
“There are also more than 7,000 policemen and police officers who are training for the battle to liberate Mosul and to take control of liberated territory afterwards,” he added.
Commenting on life for Nineveh citizens in ISIS-controlled areas of the province, Nujaifi stressed that he and the provincial council are doing everything they can to maintain basic services for the population of the region, including healthcare.
“[However], ISIS has tried to interfere in the administration of services, including healthcare, by forcing doctors to treat their wounded and by seizing medicine and medical supplies,” Nujaifi said.
“ISIS is also in control of the ministries of education and higher education [in Nineveh], and have changed parts of the curriculum,” he added.