Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Top commander: Mosul, Raqqa should be retaken within 6 months

Top commander: Mosul, Raqqa should be retaken within 6 months



The top U.S. commander of the anti-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) coalition said Wednesday the campaigns to retake both Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, from the terrorist group should be done within six months.
“Within the next six months, I think we'll see both conclude,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said during a tour north of Baghdad, according to The Associated Press.
Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, have been fighting to retake Mosul since October. They’ve fully liberated the portion of the city east of the Tigris River, but the western portion remains in ISIS hands.
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Townsend also said Wednesday he expects operations to retake western Mosul to begin “in the next few days,” according to the AP.Mosul has been held by ISIS since 2014 and is the group’s last urban center in Iraq.
Meanwhile, in Raqqa, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces has been working to isolate the city since November with U.S.-led coalition backing. The city has been ISIS’s de facto capital.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday he expects Raqqa to be isolated “within the next few weeks.”
“What we would expect is that within the next few weeks is that the city would be nearly completely isolated and then there will be a decision point to move in," Air Force Col. John Dorrian said at a briefing.
Townsend’s and Dorrian’s comments on the timeline of the operations come as the Pentagon is in the midst of a 30-day review of the strategy against ISIS.
The review was ordered by President Trump in a memorandum signed Jan. 28 and is examining whether any rules of engagement need to changed and whether there are any new partners that can be added to the anti-ISIS coalition, among other aspects.

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