Kurds advancing on Mosul

Peshmerga troops seized bridgeheads north of Iraq's second largest city.

Peshmerga troops on the march. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

BEIRUT – Kurdish Peshmerga troops have advanced around northern Iraq’s Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was seized by ISIS during its lightning advances last summer.


“Our forces are now very close to Mosul,” As-Sharq al-Awsat on Friday cited a Kurdish official as saying.


Kurdish Peshmerga chief of staff General Jamal Mohamed specified to the London-based daily that “in some cases we are no further than 10-15 kilometers from the city.”


“Peshmerga forces have been able to make significant advances east, west and north of Mosul and our operations there have completely cut off ISIS from these areas.”


Meanwhile, a colonel in the Kurdish fighting force told the daily that “ISIS positions within Mosul are now within range of our guns and our missiles.”


Earlier in the week, the US Department of Defense issued a statement that Kurdish troops had seized “three bridgeheads on the west bank of the Tigris River north of Mosul.”


The DOD added that the Peshmerga is “now postured to retake additional territory near Mosul from [ISIS].”


“Iraqi operation”


On Tuesday, the Peshmerga chief of staff told Kurdish Bas News that a “final plan” for an attack on Mosul has not yet been developed.


“The Iraqi army has been planning the Mosul operation, but so far it is undecided how and when the operation will take place.”


Jamal added that no decision has been taken on whether Kurdish troops would take part in any military operation to free Mosul from ISIS.


Last week, Iraqi PM Haidar al-Abadi and Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss cooperation between Baghdad and the KRG on security issues.


Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish politician who also serves as Iraq's deputy premier, told Bas News that Abadi and Barzani "agreed that Baghdad and Erbil must cooperate to combat ISIS insurgents and liberate Mosul as soon as possible."


As Kurdish troops press their advances against ISIS, US and Canadian advisors have been training Iraqis in a base in Kurdish Iraq for an offensive on Mosul.


Kurdish Rudaw News reported that 4,000 Iraqi policemen have finished training and been placed in eight regiments.


“The recruits at the base come from all Iraqi backgrounds, but are dominated by Arabs,” the report said.


The recent Kurdish advances come as the US has touted an upcoming ground offensive against ISIS in Iraq.


Last weekend, Washington’s anti-ISIS coalition envoy told Jordan’s Petra News agency that “there will be a major offensive [in the coming weeks] against ISIS on the ground led by Iraq forces.”


John Allen, a former four-star general in the US Marines, added that the coalition has dispatched “multiple advisory teams on the ground” in Iraq.


ISIS militants seized Mosul and large swathes of northern and eastern Iraq in June 2014, sparking an exodus of minorities from the city, which was once the home of Chaldean Christians, Kurds and Turkmen.

Peshmerga troops on the march. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

The Peshmerga is now postured to retake additional territory near Mosul.