World

Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces push to retake Iraq's second largest city from ISIS

File -- In this Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 file photo, Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces gather ahead of an operation to re-take the Islamic State-held City of Mosul, outside Irbil, Iraq. Iraqi forces appear poised to launch their most complex anti-IS operation to date: retaking the country’s second largest city of Mosul. While the country’s military has won a string of territorial victories that have pushed IS out of more than half of the territory the group once held, some Iraqi officials worry that the Mosul fight has been rushed and if the city is retaken without a plan to broker a peace, it could lead to more violence. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

Iraqi security forces were "ahead of schedule" after the first day of an offensive for the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook on Monday. A U.S.-led coalition has for months been helping train Iraqi forces for the fight for Mosul — the last Islamic State stronghold in Iraq — and the military offensive finally got underway early Monday. Cook, however, warned it was unknown how long the battle would last. A top U.S. general earlier said it would take several weeks or even longer.

We are in the first day of what we assume will be a difficult campaign that could take some time.

Peter Cook, Pentagon spokesman

More is riding on the battle for Mosul than the recapture of the Islamic State's main stronghold in northern Iraq. Also on the line is the Obama administration's theory that the extremists can be defeated in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere without American ground troops doing the fighting. For more than two years, the administration has stuck to its argument that the only path to a sustained victory over the Islamic State group is for locals, not Americans or other outsiders, to bear the main responsibility for the fighting and for governing after the extremists are removed.

I think the president would be the first to acknowledge that this is a significant test.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest
Summarized by
The United States predicted the Islamic State would suffer "a lasting defeat" as Iraqi forces mounted their biggest operation in Iraq since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Mosul

Mosul is a city of normally about two and a half million people(2014 est.) in northern Iraq, occupied since 10 June 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIL).Located some 400 km north of Baghdad, the original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the"Left Coast"(east side) and the"Right Coast"(west side) as the two banks are described in the local language.At the start of the 21st century, the majority of Mosul's population was Arab with Arameans, Armenian, Turkmen, Kurdish, Yazidi, Shabaki and other minorities.

Topic in-depth

What it's like on the frontlines with Iraqi and Kurdish forces moving on Mosul

Images from battle to retake Iraq's second largest city.
The Washington Post