Iraqi troops preparing for Erbil deployment to fight IS

Iraqi troops preparing for Erbil deployment to fight IS
Around 4,500 Iraqi troops will be sent to a purpose-built military base the Iraqi-Kurdistan, says Iraq's defence minister, ready for a new bid to recapture Mosul from IS.
2 min read
08 February, 2016
Relations between Erbil and the federal government of Iraq are strained [AFP]
Iraqi Defence Minister Khalid al-Obaidi announced that nearly 4,500 Iraqi troops will be deployed to a military base newly opened southwest of Erbil, in preparation for recapturing the northern city of Mosul.

"The preparations will surprise Daesh [IS] and Mosul will be liberated quickly," Obaidi said in a statement on the sidelines of a visit to Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Saturday.

Obaidi predicted that the attack on Mosul will go ahead in the first half of this year, without giving further details.

The head of Iraq's parliamentary security and defence committee Shakhwan Abdullah said that the deployment of Iraqi troops to the Kurdistan region was agreed between the two sides. 

This will be "temporary and concerns the battle to take control of the city of Mosul", he said, according to Kurdish television channel Rudaw.

"Subsequently, the army will hand back the military base to the Peshmerga [Kurdish] forces," he added.

Abdullah said that a military base was erected in Erbil's Makhmour district.

This will be "dedicated for preparing forces that will participate in the Mosul battle", noting that the new base cost nearly $10 million to construct and will be funded by the US.

Iraq wants to involve the 15th and 16th Divisions of the Iraqi army in the attack on Mosul.
The army will hand back the military base to the Peshmerga forces
- Shakhwan Abdullah

Such an offensive of IS would be complicated and difficult. 

The Iraqi army would need to attack from several directions, including from the north and the east of Mosul, which are areas controlled by the Pesherga forces.

The army would also attack from the south but it remains relatively far from the southern city limits.

Around 5,000 police forces from Nineveh province, who had been trained to fight alongside the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces, will also join the battle to recapture Mosul.

Relations between the Kurdistan regional government and the federal government of Iraq are strained, particularly over security and the military issues.

Baghdad refuses to work with the Peshmerga forces as part of the Iraqi defence system, although this had been stipulated in the constitution.

Baghdad also refuses to pay the salaries of Peshmerga fighters or provide them with weapons.

The Kurdistan region has been complaining about not receiving a share of the arms given to Iraq to support its war against IS.

Despite the repeated statements by Iraqi officials about preparations being underway to libetate Mosul, the Kurdish leaders are sceptical about the ability of the army to enter the city, and link their participation in the battles to being provided with weapons.