Iraqi forces announce their readiness for Mosul battle
The Iraqi ministry of defence on Thursday announced that it has completed all the necessary preparations for the battle to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State group (IS), and awaits the orders to commence its offensive to recapture the city.
“The units taking part in the battle have completed all of their military requirements in the staging areas, and await the commander-in-chief’s orders to start the operation to liberate Mosul,” said a ministry of defence statement.
The announcement comes as the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Shia dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces took positions around the IS-held city over the past few days.
International coalition forces from 16 different countries including the US, UK, France and Germany will be supporting Iraqi troops in the imminent operation, with the majority of foreign troops playing advisory and training roles.
The preparations for the Mosul battle have in recent days been sidetracked by a war of words between Baghdad and Ankara on the participation of Turkish troops, a proposition strongly rejected by the Iraqi government.
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Turkey has an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq - around 500 of them in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, and Turkish officials have been very forceful in announcing their participation in the battle despite Baghdad’s objections.
The dispute has forced Washington to step in, with State Department spokesman John Kirby saying that "it was a matter for Baghdad which forces should be deployed on its sovereign territory".
IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Baghdad-aligned forces have since regained significant ground from the militants.
IS fighters are reportedly fleeing Mosul ahead of the operation and rigging large sections of the city with explosives.
The Syrian anti-IS activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, on Thursday said that 10 buses and 35 SUVs with Iraqi license plates carrying IS fighters and their families arrived in the militants’ Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.