Iraqi PM says three months needed to rout ISIL
BAGHDADIraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Dec. 27 that it would take three months to remove the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Iraq, as U.S.-backed forces battle to dislodge the militants from Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.
Abadi had previously pledged the northern city would be retaken by the end of this year. But the operation has been slowed by concern to avoid casualties among civilians, who have mostly stayed in their homes rather than fleeing as was initially expected.
Asked to respond to comments by the commander of a U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces that it would take as long as two years to eliminate Islamic State and its cells in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, Abadi said:
“The Americans were very pessimistic. They used to talk about a really long period, but the remarkable successes achieved by our brave and heroic fighters reduced that. I foresee that in Iraq it will take three months,” Reuters quoted Abadi as saying.
Overnight the coalition bombed the last remaining bridge connecting the eastern and western parts of Mosul “to reduce enemy freedom of movement,” a spokesman said on Dec. 27.
A statement published by Amaq, a news agency supporting ISIL, said the bridge was now completely out of service, and an unconfirmed video circulated online showed a segment of the span had fallen into the river.
The United Nations has previously expressed concern that the destruction of Mosul’s bridges could obstruct the evacuation of civilians. Up to 1.5 million are thought to remain inside.
Meanwhile, U.S. Army Colonel John Dorian, the spokesman for the international U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition said it was impossible to say when Iraqi military operations aimed at recapturing Mosul would wrap up.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency via email, Dorian described the Iraqi army’s Mosul campaign - which began on Oct. 17 - as a difficult one.
“It would be very difficult to accurately predict how long it will take to liberate either the eastern part of the city or Mosul in its entirety,” Dorian said.
According to Dorian, coalition forces are advising and assisting Iraqi forces in the months-long battle to retake the city.
This supporting role, he explained, includes providing Iraqi forces with “assistance with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, logistics, equipment and air and artillery strikes.”
“The coalition has delivered 7,511 munitions against Daesh [ISIL] targets,” Dorian told Anadolu Agency.
“These strikes have destroyed 108 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, 125 tunnels, 292 vehicles, 331 bunkers, 23 anti-aircraft artillery, and 234 artillery and mortar systems,” he said.