BEIJING, May 3 (ChinaMil) -- Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi, Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, bragged on April 30 that ISIS in Mosul will be defeated in “a maximum of three weeks.” In other words, the government army will recapture Iraq's second largest city Mosul which has been occupied by the Islamic State extremist organization for nearly three years by the end of May.
According to analysts, although the critical phase of the Mosul Battle has come, it is too early to assert that May will be the time to end the fight. The current battlefield conditions in the western part of Mosul are not conducive to large-scale operations by the government army, and the remaining armed forces of ISIS are likely to hold on.
A completely recovery of Mosul still requires some time. There are two main reasons.
First, the Iraqi government forces recently recovered some blocks on the north and west sides of western downtown area of Mosul. However, they met stubborn resistance from ISIS remnants in the city and had to slow down the offensive.
The US military estimates that there are currently not more than 1,000 armed personnel in western downtown area of Mosul. Despite the sharp difference with the 5,000 people in the wake of the Mosul Battle last October, these remnants are still desperate and have the ability to launch a highly aggressive counterattack.
Second, the narrow roads and dense population have imposed great obstacles to the government army's offensive, severely compromising the superior firepower of the government army. For example, in the narrow streets around the Al-Nuri Mosque in the old downtown area, the government forces had to resort to a seesaw battle with the armed men.
ISIS also detains a large number of civilians. Reports said there are still hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the western downtown area of Mosul. ISIS armed men use civilians as a "human shield", and a lot of armed men hide in the vicinity of residential areas, and often use civilians as a cover to pounce on the government forces.
The government forces had to give up gunfire and air raids among other offensive means to reduce harms to the civilians, leaving the combat efficiency negatively affected.
It is worth mentioning that the Iraqi Shia militias have recently recovered Hadar town, an important base of ISIS 80 kilometers south of Mosul, and several villages near the border of Iraq and Syria.
"The connections between these ISIS militants and their cohorts in Syria are completely cut off. They have nowhere to go, but to surrender or be killed," said an Iraqi government official.
Iraqi state television quoted the Ministry of Interior spokesperson Abdul-Karim Khalaf that the military's additional reinforcements to Mosul will reach the front line soon, including well-trained special operations forces.
The government's elite anti-terrorism forces have opened up a new front with the air cover of US-Iraqi fighters on the west and north sides of the western downtown area of Mosul, disclosed Iraqi military expert Muhammad Hashemi.
It would stretch the battlefront of the western downtown area of Mosul, forcing ISIS to further disperse their limited combat power, which is extremely unfavorable to them, pointed out Hashemi.
The Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army Ghanimi knew the progress of the war in the western downtown area of Mosul well, understood the fighting readiness of the army and the news about the upcoming arrival of reinforcements and stretched battlefront, said Hashemi.
However, he added that although there are signs supporting Ghanimi's assertion of ISIS in Mosul will be defeated in “a maximum of three weeks”, "I do not want to fix a schedule for the Mosul Battle, because the ISIS extremists will certainly fight to the end."
Mosul is located about 400 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad and is the second largest city in Iraq. Mosul was occupied by ISIS in June 2014. The Iraqi government forces launched the Mosul Battle in October 2016 and recovered the city's eastern downtown area in January 2017. On February 19, the government forces began the military action to recover the western downtown area of Mosul.
Mosul is home to complete agricultural and industrial facilities and has high oil production, with an important strategic status. It is the headquarters and economic lifeline of ISIS within Iraq.
Analysts believe that the recovery of Mosul boasts crucial symbolic significance for the anti-terrorism situation in the Middle East, considering that ISIS leader Baghdadi announced the establishment of ISIS in Mosul. The loss of Mosul will be a major strike to this extremist organization, and its influence will plummet.
Written by Wei Yudong and Cheng Shuaipeng