Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has told media that the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State has begun. The offensive will involve, in addition to the Iraqi army, its U.S.-led coalition allies and the Peshmerga, the armed forces of the Kurdistan autonomous region. The announcement was televised in the early hours of Monday.
Mosul has been under the terrorist group’s control since 2014 and is the largest stronghold of IS in Iraq or Syria. Restoring government control over it is seen as a turning point in the fight against the organization.
Al-Abadi, however, said in his announcement that only the Iraqi army will enter the city once IS forces are defeated, in an attempt, according to the BBC, to quench fears that sectarian violence may break out otherwise.
The battle for Mosul has been planned and prepared for months, with the Iraqi army and its Western allies retaking towns and villages—and oil fields—on the way to Mosul. In late August, the army recaptured the Qayyara oil producing regions south of Mosul from forces loyal to the Islamic State, cutting the access of the group to its main source of revenue in the region.
Now, according to an Iraqi general, Haider Fadhil, a total of 25,000 troops will now take part in the offensive. Plans, as announced by PM Al-Abadi earlier this year, are to win the war with IS by the end of the year.
The Iraqi army and its allies, however, are not the only ones that have been preparing for a major battle. As Oilprice reported in late September, ISIS was building a moat around Mosul and using oil tankers to construct a wall around the city, which it would set on fire if the Iraqi army gets too close, according to Mosul residents. The group has also been digging tunnels underneath the city as a means of stopping the army’s advance, shutting down some neighborhoods, and setting bombs.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.