Iraqi forces to use French weaponry in advance on Mosul
Shabak fighters undergo training before the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul in Diyala province, Iraq. REUTERS photoIraqi forces readying to retake Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will be using artillery batteries provided by France, France President Francois Hollande said Sept. 20, as Iraqi military closed in on Sept. 21 on the center of Shirqat, a northern town held by ISIL.
“The artillery batteries have been positioned north of Mosul and are ready for use to reconquer Mosul,” Hollande told a news conference.
France announced in July that it was providing the weaponry to the Iraqi forces and sent French military advisers to Iraq for training.
The Caesar truck-mounted artillery has a range of 40 kilometers (25 miles).
Hollande said the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was en route to the area.
Iraqi forces have been moving northwards from Baghdad for almost two years, gradually retaking areas over which ISIL declared its “caliphate” in June 2014.
ISIL seized Mosul, Iraq’s cosmopolitan and religiously mixed second city, in June 2014 in a lightning offensive through the north and west of the country.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi army, backed by local police and Sunni Muslim tribal fighters, has taken 12 nearby villages since launching the operation on the morning of Sept. 20, said Ali Dawdah, the mayor of Shirqat currently based in Erbil.
With air support from a U.S.-led coalition, the troops are now less than 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the town center, according to Dawdah, who said he expected the campaign to be concluded within 48 hours.
Five security personnel and one civilian have been killed in the battle for Shirqat, where they face hazards including roadside bombs, mortars and snipers, said the mayor and a source in the Salahuddin Operations Command which oversees military operations in the area.
Iraqi forces ‘ready by early October’ for Mosul assault
Meanwhile, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joe Dunford said Sept. 21 that Iraqi security forces would be ready by next month for an assault on Mosul.
“We assess today that the Iraqis will have in early October all the forces marshaled, trained, fielded, equipped that are necessary for operations in Mosul,” Dunford said at a military event in Washington.
“Timing of that operation now is really just a function of a political decision by Prime Minister [Haider al-] Abadi.”