Iraqi government forces, with air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition, launched an offensive on Monday to drive the Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, the militants' last major stronghold in the country. Helicopters released flares overhead and explosions could be heard on the city's eastern front, where Kurdish fighters moved forward to take outlying villages. In Washington, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the launch of the Mosul operation "a decisive moment in the campaign" to defeat ISIS.
I announce today the start of the heroic operations to free you from the terror and the oppression of [ISIS].Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi
The United States predicted that Islamic State would suffer "a lasting defeat" as Iraqi forces mounted their biggest operation since the U.S. withdrew its own troops in 2011. The offensive is one of the biggest military operations in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Mosul fell to ISIS fighters two years ago as they marched through Iraq and Syria, where the civil war left a power vacuum that they easily exploited. Its recapture would shatter the group's claim to be running a "caliphate" and would all but end its presence in Iraq as a land-holding force.