US: 15,000-strong Sunni force to stabilise Mosul after IS
A 15,000-strong Sunni force will stabilise Mosul following its liberation from the Islamic State group, a US official has said.
Shia militias will not enter Iraq's second city after it is retaken by US-backed Iraqi forces, in the wake of reprisal attacks committed against Sunnis thought to be sympathetic to IS.
"The core of the force that liberates Mosul will be the Iraqi security forces backed by the coalition with the support of the Peshmerga," US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
"The tribal elements that are being trained, equipped, brought on board with the goal of getting 15,000 of them will predominantly be the holding force once the city is liberated."
The Iraqi security forces, supported by a US-led coalition, are gearing up to retake the hardline group's last bastion in the country.
It was from Mosul's Grand Mosque that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria in July 2014.
But Baghdad-aligned forces have since regained significant ground from the militants.
"Mosul is and will be the culmination in the Iraq side of the field in the counter-IS campaign," Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"It's a vitally important opportunity to deny IS its physical, geographical caliphate which has been at the heart of its narrative and the heart of its ability to project success.
"We're making sure that all of the forces are coordinated under one plan with the Iraqi leadership but bringing in all the critical elements to include Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and critically tribal elements from Ninevah.
"There is now an objective of raising 15,000 members from the tribes and we're well on track."
The Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella coalition of Shia armed groups, has been fiercely condemned for attacks against Sunni communities, particularly in Fallujah.
On stabilising Mosul following its liberation, Blinken said: "We've tried to learn lessons from the past. In Fallujah when it was liberated, we saw some reprisal atrocities committed by the Shia Popular Mobilisation Forces.
"We have made sure that for Mosul there will be no southern or Shia PMF going into Mosul city, and similarly no Kurdish Peshmerga.
"A significant hold force comprised of members of Sunni tribes from the region will be both in the security forces and in the police."
He added warnings from aid agencies that one million people are set to be displaced by the battle had been heeded, and cash and resources for humanitarian efforts were in place.
On Wednesday, the US confirmed 600 more troops would be deployed to Iraq to support government forces.