US: ISIS ‘losing’ as campaign to retake Mosul begins

The operation’s current strategy is to cut the main road connecting Mosul to the ISIS-stronghold city of Raqqa in Syria

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The chief of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition on Saturday announced plans to seize Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul from ISIS, which has been held by the militants since June 2014, describing the militant group as “losing.”

The operation’s current strategy is to cut the main road connecting Mosul to the ISIS-stronghold city of Raqqa in Syria, the coalition’s US special envoy Brett McGurk said at a press conference in the capital Baghdad.

The ground operation will see the participation of both the Iraqi Army forces and Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces from the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to the north.

McGurk also said ISIS is losing a battle against forces arraigned against if from many sides in Iraq and Syria and the focus would turn to stabilizing cities seized back from them.

McGurk, however, declined to put a timeline on when the group would be defeated or when Mosul and Raqqa, the main cities under its control in Iraq and Syria respectively, would be retaken.

McGurk met in Baghdad Iraqi officials including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who said in December that 2016 would be a year of “final victory” over the group in Iraq.

"Daesh is feeling pressure now from all simultaneous directions and that’s going to continue .. that’s going to accelerate,” McGurk said at the press conference, using an acronym for ISIS.

“Daesh is losing; as they lose we focus increasingly on stabilization,” he added, referring to plans being made to rehabilitate and police cities recaptured from militants.

ISIS has come under pressure from air raids and ground forces actions by various parties in both countries, but they still hold large tracts of land.

McGurk’s announcement comes despite Iraq’s defense minister saying that the battle to retake Mosul was scheduled later this year.
ISIS militants captured Mosul in a shock 2014 offenses after the Iraqi army fled the city.

The Iraqi Army deserting Mosul has led to the rise of the Shiite-dominated volunteer forces called the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The units were formed after a religious edict by the influential spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, calling on Iraqis to fight ISIS.

The PMU have been effective in snatching from ISIS areas such as Tikrit, the hometown of late President Saddam Hussein. However, the units have been accused of exacting brutal on Sunnis after retaking territory from the militants.

(With Reuters)