Special to WorldTribune.com
Baghdad is preparing for a major offensive in Mosul, mobilizing thousands of troops in a plan to drive Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) out of its main Iraqi stronghold.
The Iraqi army has sent large numbers of soldiers to a base near Mosul, officials said on Feb. 8.
“Units from the Iraqi army have begun arriving to a military base near the Makhmur district to start launching initial military operations toward Mosul,” a staff brigadier general told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“There are three brigades located in that base now,” and their number will eventually reach 4,500 soldiers, the officer said, adding that troops from the 15th and 16th division will take part in Mosul offensive against ISIL.
The officer said Iraq’s forces will first attempt to completely sever ISIL supply lines between Mosul and areas to the south including Hawijah in Kirkuk province and areas near Baiji in Salaheddin.
A Kurdish official said the Iraqi contigent deployed to the area, which is located within territory controlled by Iraqi Kurdistan, are ethnic Kurds from the Iraqi army.
“These forces came with the approval of the presidency and government of the Kurdistan region of Iraq,” said Halgurd Hekmat, a spokesman from the ministry responsible for the autonomous region’s forces.
ISIL seized Mosul in June 2014 and has held Iraq’s second city largely unopposed for over 18 months.