US Defence Secretary on Mosul operation: It’s a tough fight, but we were prepared

Ashton-Carter.jpg

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

ARA News

Erbil – US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter denied that the Mosul operation is being stalled by ISIS counter-attacks or the clouds that hamper US-led coalition strikes.

“It’s going pretty much down the path that we thought. It was always gonna be a tough fight, and obviously, there’s always weather issues,” Secretary Carter said Monday.

“It’s always gonna be a tough fight and we’re prepared for… more importantly the Iraqi security forces are prepared for any eventuality there. But none of this is unexpected,” he said. “The Iraqi security forces have learned a lot in the course of their successive victories, and so they are better prepared for this kind of engagement.”

The US Secretary of Defence, however, refused to comment on how long the battle for Mosul could still take before the city is ISIS-free.

“I have always said I hope as soon as possible. But this is a war, so I’m not going to predict that… it’s gonna be a tough fight,” Carter said.

Analysts suggest that it is unlikely for Mosul city to be fully liberated anytime soon.

“There are a few reasons, mostly tactical decisions taken early on in the campaign, which have led to too many civilians being present in areas of heavy fighting. This has severely limited the ability of the Iraqi forces to use artillery and call in air power,” Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute – Qatar told ARA News.

“Additionally, ISIS militants are well dug in, moving in amongst houses and launching traps and huge numbers of suicide bombers to slow down the advance. To date, ISIS has utilized some 600 suicide bombers to defend Mosul which gives them tactical advantage in small enclosed areas,” he added.

“There is little doubt that the fight ISIS has put up is more than was expected. The problem is made worse by the lack of available forces that can successfully close the noose around Mosul and get ISIS to divert resources away from defending the eastern side of the city,” Stephens told ARA News.

“As such, it’s placing undue pressure on those units operating in the eastern neighbourhoods of Mosul, hugely slowing down the advance,” he said.

Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, agreed with Stephens. “The Mosul operation will not be completed by January 20. ISIS fighters are providing far greater resistance inside the city than the Coalition expected,” Heras told ARA News

“The Coalition, Baghdad, and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] will also be very cautious with the campaign plan to take the more densely populated districts of Mosul, fearing an even greater outflow of refugees from the city,” he said.

“With winter approaching, the humanitarian pressure on the KRG and other areas of Nineveh and further into Iraq could be catastrophic,” Heras concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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