Various analysts have predicted that the U.S.-backed offensive to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) could carry on until around mid-2017, Rudaw has learned.
Tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga troops, Iran-allied Shiite militias, Sunni tribesmen, and Christian fighters are participating in the ongoing fight to liberate Mosul, ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians have also perished in the bloody offensive.
The predictions cited in Rudaw come nearly a week to the day after Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told the Daily Beast that he expects it will take two years to successfully carry out the simultaneous offensives to push the terrorist group out of their last major strongholds and so-called capitals in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq.
“People need to rest,” Townsend told the Daily Beast in a Christmas Day interview, without providing any specific timelines on the battle. “They need to assess how things are going because they are not going as fast as we thought.”
Last Thursday, the Mosul operation reportedly entered its second phase, stepping up efforts to push ISIS out of the city.
“The general [Townsend] seemed to be referring to the entire campaign [including both Mosul and Raqqa],” Michael Knights, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Lafer Fellow, told Rudaw as the Mosul campaign entered its second phase. “So nobody has suggested Mosul’s liberation will take two years. I can see Mosul’s liberation lasting until mid-2017.”
“East Mosul will likely be recaptured by January, February and West Mosul by February, April or May,” Knights explained.
Echoing Knights, Iraq analyst Joel Wing, who runs the popular Musings on Iraq blog, told Rudaw, “I would think that summer 2017 would be the long estimate on recapturing Mosul… I’m thinking more like the spring but you never know.”
“There doesn’t appear to be any consensus on how Western Mosul will be like compared to the east,” declared Wing. “Heavy fighting, future pauses could all lead to the campaign being finalized by the summer.”
Most analyses of the ongoing offensive have determined that the Mosul operation will take longer than previously thought.
“I think the operation to retake Mosul will take longer than first thought, but not as long as two years,” Dylan O’Driscoll, a fellow at the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) in Erbil who has expressed criticism in his extensive writing on the lack of pre-battle plans for the operation, told Rudaw.
Despite his assertions about a lack of battle plans, the U.S.-led coalition months before the start of the Mosul offensive in October expressed confidence that ISIS is weakening terrorist group on a downward spiral and argued and that nearly all the pieces had fallen into place for the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces to make a push to recapture Mosul.