Iraqi coalition forces 'won't be able to defeat Isis' until the summer

Expectations revised as progress in battle for extremist-held city of Mosul slows to gruelling street-by-street fight 

Tuesday 03 January 2017 11:01
Iraqi forces are battling Isis in eastern Mosul
Iraqi forces are battling Isis in eastern Mosul

The operation to oust Isis from its last stronghold in Iraq may not be completed until the summer, several observers have said, as attempts to drive militants from the city of Mosul have slowed to a gruelling street-by-street fight.

The US-led coalition is currently facing fierce counterattacks including suicide bombings, sniper fire and improvised explosive devices (IUDs) which have caused heavy losses. A perceived lack of pre-battle planning before Operation Inherent Resolve began has also been criticised.

Officials had previously claimed when the assault began on October 17 last year that Isis would be driven from the city “by Christmas.”

Now, with just 60 per cent of the eastern side of the city reclaimed after two and a half months of fighting, many observers expect the fight could take much longer than originally thought - and claim many more lives in the process.

Iraqi officials say the pace of the battle has slowed as Iraqi troops and allied militias try to minimise civilian casualties.

Isis has also stepped up its attacks on civilians elsewhere in the country since the fight for Mosul began. Sixty-four people died on Monday alone in five different car bombings across Iraq, and two bombs in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve killed another 24.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last week that he estimated it would take “three months to eliminate” Isis from the country, but on Monday, during a visit to a French base near the Iraqi city of Irbil, French Prime Minister Francois Hollande echoed Mr Abadi’s comments, as well as pushing the timeline back until mid-2017.

“It was confirmed to us that we could possibly achieve this goal in spring, in any case before summer,” he told a media conference.

Analysts gave similar estimates. “I would think that summer 2017 would be the long estimate on recapturing Mosul,” Joel Wing, the analyst behind the Musings on Iraq blog, told local news.

“There doesn't appear to be any consensus on how western Mosul will be like compared to the east. Heavy fighting and future pauses could all lead to the campaign being finalised by the summer.”

The US commander of the campaign has said that the entire war against Isis - ending their ability to hold land in both Iraq and Syria, where Isis clings onto its de facto capital of Raqqa - could take as long as two years.

“People need to rest,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told The Daily Beast. “They need to assess how things are going because they are not going as fast as we thought.”

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