The so-called Islamic State strongholds Raqqa and Mosul “must fall” this year, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a speech in Baghdad on Monday.
AhlulBayt News Agency - The so-called Islamic State strongholds Raqqa and Mosul “must fall” this year, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a speech in Baghdad on Monday.
The battles to retake Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are expected to be the most difficult of the war against ISIS, which holds swaths of territory in both countries.
Le Drian’s remarks are the most specific timetable for the cities’ recapture given by a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the insurgents, which has been reluctant to comment on the expected pace of operations.
“Raqqa and Mosul must fall in 2016,” Le Drian said, calling for making it “the year of a major turning point in our struggle against the so-called Islamic State.
Raqqa was seized by the insurgents in early 2014, and Mosul was overrun during an ISIS offensive in June that year.
The fact that both cities still have large civilian populations will complicate efforts to retake them, and the jihadis have had ample time to sow slews of bombs and set up other defenses.
This year “must be the year of the beginning of the end for Daesh,” Le Drian said in his speech to Iraqi special forces and French troops, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
But he cautioned that despite having suffered a string of defeats, the jihadis are still a threat.
“Because it’s cornered, Daesh is more dangerous than ever,” he said.
IS is still able to carry out frequent bombings in government-held areas, as well as mount raids targeting security forces.
“Now that we have regained the upper hand, we must make the most of this dynamic with our partners,” said Le Drian, referring to Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground in Iraq.
He said the objective was to whittle down ISIS “resources, its leaders, its capacity for planning attacks on European soil.
Le Drian arrived in Baghdad on Monday for talks on the war against the insurgents, meeting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, President Fuad Masum, parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.
Le Drian, who arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait, has already visited some of those troops.