army needs Kurds' help to retake Mosul - Zebari
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[December 29, 2015]
By Maher Chmaytelli and Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi army will need Kurdish fighters' help to
retake Mosul, the largest city under the control of Islamic State, Iraqi
Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said, with the planned offensive
expected to be very challenging. Mosul, 400 km (250 miles) north of
Baghdad, has been designated by the government as the next target for
Iraq's armed forces after they retook the western city of Ramadi."Mosul
needs good planning, preparations, commitment from all the key players,"
Zebari, a Kurd, said in an interview on Monday in Baghdad. "Peshmerga is
a major force; you cannot do Mosul without Peshmerga," he told Reuters,
referring to the armed forces of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous northern
region close to Mosul.
The mostly Sunni city had a population of two million before it
fell to the militants in June 2014 in the first stage of their
sweeping advance through northern and western Iraq.The battle of
Mosul would be "very, very challenging", Zebari said. "It will not
be an easy operation, for some time they have been strengthening
themselves, but itís doable."Given the extent of the area that needs
to be secured around Mosul during the attack, the army may also need
to draw, in support roles, on local Sunni forces and possibly the
Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation, he said.
The Mobilisation, known in Arabic as Hashid Shaabi, is a loosely
knit coalition of Iran-backed Shi'ite militias set up to fight
Islamic State. It was barred from the week-long battle to retake
Ramadi to avoid tension with the Sunni population.The retaking of
Ramadi by Iraq's army marked the first major success of the
U.S.-trained force that initially fled in the face of Islamic
State's advance 18 months ago.
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Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Monday that Islamic State
would be defeated in 2016 with the army planning to move on Mosul.
"We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final
blow to Daesh," he said in speech praising the army's "victory" in
Ramadi. Retaking Mosul would effectively mark the end of the
caliphate proclaimed by Islamic State in adjacent Sunni areas of
Iraq and Syria, according to Zebari. "It's there where Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate," he said, referring to the
group's leader. "It is literally their capital."
The Iraqi Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, discussed plans for
the liberation of Mosul with Lieutenant General Tom Beckett,
Britain's senior defence adviser, in September, according to Kurdish
(Editing by Louise Ireland)
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