As the Iraqi army and its allied Peshmerga units prepare a major offensive on Mosul to flush out Daesh terrorists, Helgurd Hikmet, a representative of the Regional Government of Kurdistan, discussed the details of the upcoming operation with Sputnik.
An estimated 50,000 Iraqi soldiers, backed by 20,000 Peshmerga fighters, 10,000 Turkmens and members of Sunni tribes will take part in the offensive.“The Iraqi army and Sunni tribesmen will be spearheading the offensive, with Peshmerga and Turkmen forces bringing up the rear. Coalition air forces will provide air cover. The Peshmerga said they would not enter the center of Mosul arguing because it just won’t be right for Kurds to take control of an Arab city,” Helgurd Hikmet said.
He added that apart from airstrikes, the US-led coalition would also provide logistical support for the advancing forces.
During their recent meeting in Washington, the foreign ministers of the countries – members of the US-led coalition against Daesh – prioritized the need to liberate Mosul.
Helgurd Hikmet said that the army would need about a year to completely flush out Daesh forces defending the strategic northern city.
“The Peshmerga forces that now control the city’s western, northern and eastern suburbs will be advancing towards the city center. The Iraqi army now controls the southern and southeastern suburbs and the outskirts of the town of Makhmour,” Hikmet explained, adding that the Iraqi army had recently killed one of the leading Daesh field commanders, Omer ash-Shishani.
He also said that said that Americans didn’t like Baghdad’s idea of the Shiite militia taking part in the operation to liberate the predominantly Sunni-populated Mosul.
The Shiite fighters, who earlier took part in operations to liberate Fallujah and many other Iraqi cities, are accused of committing atrocities against the Sunni population, further igniting divisions, which could result in a serious interfaith conflict. Another reason why Washington wants the Shiites to stay away is their close links to Iran.
“On the other hand, the Americans welcome the participation of Turkish-trained Turkmen fighters. Turkey, for its part, is against the participation of Shengal self-defense forces of Yazidis and people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which are banned in Turkey,” Helgurd Hikmet noted.
“The Iraqi army, Peshmerga and other forces need to iron out their differences before the operation to liberate Mosul actually starts,” Hikmet emphasized.
In an interview with Sputnik, Aydin Maruf, the coordinator of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Erbil and a member of the Kurdish parliament in Iraq, said that an operation to drive Daesh militants out of Mosul’s suburbs had already begun.
“What we don’t know yet is when exactly the operation to liberate the city itself is going to start. Before this happens all the participating forces need to reach agreement. We, Turkmens, will certainly take part in that operation because there are more than half a million of our people living there and liberating them is a topmost priority for us,” Aydin Maruf said.