As President Obama and Congress hammer out a war authorization against ISIS, the Iraqi Kurdish forces peshmerga are now surrounding the northern city of Mosul -- 280 miles to the north of Baghdad -- Kurdish officials said on Tuesday.
Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city and the largest city controlled by ISIS, making it its Iraqi capital. Since the fall of the city in June 2014, ISIS has dominated the jihadi movements globally and attracted tens of thousands of extremists from around the world to join its ranks.
Yet, ISIS has lost its momentum in Iraq after the US led international air campaign started in August 2014. Even though ISIS has suffered a series of defeats throughout Iraq since last October, it still controls big cities like Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah.
Liberating Mosul is crucial in defeating ISIS in Iraq.
“Peshmerga forces have advanced in the last few months to Mosul from the north, east and west. Our operations have cut ISIS maneuvers in these areas. We are now close to the city center and in some areas we are only 6 to 9 miles away from it. We have also controlled the main bridges in the areas of Aski and al-Kesk which are located on the main way between Mosul and Tal Afar”, said Lieutenant General Jamal Mohammed, the chief of staff of the peshmerga forces.
The peshmerga now control the areas of Nineveh plains to the north of Mosul, the towns of al-Koweir and Makhmur to the east of the city and the towns of Aski and al-Kesk to the west of the city. However, to the south of the city, the Iraqi government forces, the Shiite militias and the Sunni tribes are still struggling to control Salahuddin province to complete the siege of Mosul.
“We have reached the last available position in Aski and al-Kesk. Any further movement will be toward Mosul city center. We are waiting for orders in this regard. ISIS positions in Mosul have become within our artillery and rockets reach. We are constantly targeting them,” said Colonel Kamiran Hurami, a commander in the elite Zirvani forces within the peshmerga.
The Iraqi government forces and its Shiite and Sunni allies have just finished another campaign to clear the city of Beiji, 130 miles to the north of Baghdad, leaving 500 Sunni tribal fighters to guard the city. The Iraqi forces still need to capture two more important towns in their way to Mosul, al-Sherqat and al-Qayara.
These developments came two days after the announcement from General John Allen that the US led alliance is close to launching a major ground offensive in Iraq that would include 12 Iraqi brigades, supported and equipped by the United States.
In the meantime. Mosul has witnessed over the last several days the heaviest air bombing since the start of the campaign in August. “I arrived after dropping the 16th bomb, thinking that the bombardment had stopped already, but as soon as I arrived, I was startled by dropping four more bombs,” said Maouris Milton, a blogger from Mosul.
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