It promises to be the biggest and perhaps last major battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Iraq’s government is setting its sights on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that has been under IS control since June 2014, as its next major target. The assault is probably months away, but fierce fighting already has been raging as Iraqi forces try to clear the terrorists from villages and towns south of the city.
The goal is to protect the Qayara air base, which was recaptured from Islamic State on July 9 and is to be a main hub for the final move on Mosul. Some 560 U.S. military personnel, mainly engineers and logistics, security and communications experts, are due to be deployed at the base to upgrade its facilities in preparation for the Mosul attacks, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
But that can’t happen yet because Qayara base has come under frequent rocket fire. About two-thirds of the surrounding towns and villages are controlled by IS terrorists.
Iraqi forces already have driven the Islamic State group out of the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit and Beiji west and north of the Iraqi capital.
Retaking Mosul would be far more significant, robbing the IS of the jewel of its self-declared caliphate.