Preparations under way to begin offensive on Islamic State held Mosul in Iraq

Preparations are under way for an offensive to liberate the city of Mosul occupied by the Islamic State (IS). As part of the preparations, a military camp is being built near the Mosul Dam.

France has been active against the IS after deadly attacks by the group in France. It has recently launched airstrikes on Mosul but has also deployed special forces to Iraq and is arming the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces. There are some 150 French forces training Iraqi forces and conducting tactical missions. There are also numerous US special forces in the Mosul area helping to prepare for the battle. The US has increased its troop numbers in Iraq to more than 5,000.
France's defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said as the French conducted air strikes on Friday: “The battle for Mosul has not started yet. (The operations today) are the extension of our support for the coalition.There will soon be the main attack.”
IS captured Mosul back in June of 2014 and remains the biggest prize still held by the group. The city is already being encircled by Kurdish and Iraqi forces who are backed by US and French airstrikes and have captured considerable territory surrounding the city of more than a million people. The operation is expected to begin this month. While Iraqi forces will definitely spearhead the offensive, the role of Kurdish forces and Iraqi Shia militias is not clear. Many of the Iraqi forces are Sunnis from Mosul. If Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militia are used there could be tensions between them and the inhabitants of Mosul.
To complicate the matter further, Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, claimed that Turkish troops would also play a role in the offensive:“We will play a role in the Mosul liberation operation and no one can prevent us from participating." He also complained that there were attempts to allow the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to participate in the fight but said that Turkey would never accept that. Erdogan also claims that the offensive against Mosul is set for October 19. Turkish troops are on a training mission in an area on the northern outskirts of Mosul. They are training Sunni tribal forces for the liberation of Mosul. The number of Turkish troops were increased last December. Baghdad insists that the Turkish troops were in Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government.
The presence of the Turkish troops is resented by many Iraqi Shiites. This Sunday,. Qassim al-Tai, a Shiite cleric issued a fatwa (order) demanding that Iraqis fight the Turkish troops claiming this was a "religious and moral duty". He said that Turkish companies and goods should also be boycotted. On October 1st the Turkish parliament had authorized Turkish troops to stay in Iraq and Syria for another year. Preparations for the upcoming offensive are described in some detail in this article.


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