The top commander of Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), or Special Forces, believes retaking Mosul from the ISIS terror group might take another three months.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - A top Iraqi commander told The Associated Press that the operation to retake the city of Mosul from the ISIS group could be complete in three months or less.
"It's possible" that Mosul will be liberated in in that time frame, Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday evening. However, he warned it is difficult to give an accurate estimate of how long the operation will take because it is not a conventional fight.
"There are many variables," he said, describing the combat as "guerrilla warfare."
The massive offensive involving some 30,000 Iraqi forces was launched in October and Iraqi leaders originally pledged the city would be retaken before 2017. However as the fight enters its fourth month, only about a third of the city is under government control.
Iraqi forces have slowly advanced across Mosul's east. Fierce ISIS counterattacks have killed and injured hundreds of Iraqi troops and inflicted considerable damage to Iraqi military equipment. Repeatedly, after what appeared to be swift progress on the ground, Iraqi forces have been pushed back by ISIS counterattacks overnight.
However, Shaghati said the counterattacks — specifically car bombings — have slowed. He estimated his forces are seeing less than half the number of ISIS car bomb attacks on the front than they were faced with when the operation first began.
Shaghati, the top commander of Iraq's special forces and the Commander of Iraq's Joint Military Operation said that while many forces are participating in the Mosul fight, Iraq's special forces are the only troops with the skills to fight ISIS.
"The forces who have the skills to fight guerrilla warfare is only the Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS)," he said using an alternative acronym for Iraq's special forces who are also called the counter-terrorism forces. "They have flexibility and can act quickly," he said.
Although Shaghati said he believes that the beginning of the Mosul operation marked the end of ISIS in Iraq, the country will likely struggle with terrorist threats long after ISIS is defeated in Mosul.
"It will not pose a threat but there will be small terrorist groups in various places. We still have them in certain parts of Anbar (province) like al-Qaim, Rawa and Anah.
And these are small areas because terrorist movements are small-scale and fast-moving, they cannot be compared to regular forces,” Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, head of Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service said.
Mosul and much of the plains of northern Iraq have been under ISIS group control since the middle of 2014. Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a massive operation to retake these areas last October.