Shia militias 'to be kept out of Mosul battle'

Shia militias 'to be kept out of Mosul battle'
The US has reportedly drawn up plans for the offensive on the IS-held Iraqi city, and the Iranian-influenced Popular Mobilisation Forces will not be playing a leading role.
3 min read
30 September, 2016
There have been previous touted offensives on Mosul that have been cancelled [Getty]
Shia militias are unlikely to be used at the forefront of the battle for Mosul, an Iraqi official has told The New Arab.

The Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella coalition of Shia armed groups, has been fiercely condemned in the wake of attacks against Sunni communities following the liberation of other Iraqi Sunni-majority cities from the Islamic State group.

US-crafted plans for the Iraqi government's upcoming offensive on Mosul are set to be delivered to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi by a military delegation, the official said.

He told The New Arab on Friday that the offensive would heavily rely on US-led coalition air raids to drive the Islamic State group out of its Iraqi stronghold.

"The battle plan for Mosul has been drawn up and Washington will deliver it to Baghdad during an upcoming visit of a US military delegation," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

"Abadi and Iraqi commanders in the Nineveh Liberation Operations Command, as well as Kurdish leaders, will meet with the [US military] delegation." 

He said that US spy planes had finished their aerial survey of the city and photographed the most important IS-held positions.

He added that the offensive will likely be launched from the south, north and east of the Mosul, leaving the western flanks open to allow as much of the fighting as possible to take place outside the city and to limit civilian casualties, allowing a corridor for escape.

"The Iraqi military, police, Peshmerga and tribal Sunni forces will lead the attack into the city. As for the Shia-dominated Hashd al-Shaabi militias [Popular Mobilisation Forces], they will not enter because of fears of reprisal attacks against the Sunni residents such as what happened in Fallujah, Tikrit and the Khalidiya Island," he said.

      [Click to enlarge]

The official added the offensive would most probably begin in November after safe passages are created to allow civilians to leave the city.

On Friday, French aircraft were launched from the Charles de Gaulle carrier to begin the operation against IS in Mosul.

It was not immediately clear whether the French jets were to carry out initial airstrikes or were on a reconnaissance mission.

IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Baghdad-aligned forces have since regained significant ground from the militants.

They are readying for an assault to retake Iraq's second-largest city with coalition air and artillery support.

On Wednesday, the US announced it would send an additional 600 troops to Iraq to help Baghdad's bid to retake Mosul from IS militants.

The United Nations has expressed concern that the offensive on Mosul could trigger one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years, forecasting that at least 700,000 people could require assistance.

There have been previous offensives touted on the largest city under IS control that have been cancelled over the past two years.