Iraqi military on Friday said it was mobilising troops to prepare for an offensive the government has vowed to initiate this year to retake the northern city of Mosul from DAESH terror group.
Spokesman for the joint operations command, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said hundreds of forces from the army’s 15th division reached Makhmour base, 70km south of Mosul, and more force were to be deployed in coming days.
Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al Obeidi said last month that the army is preparing to attack DAESH in Mosul to push the terrorist group out within the first half of 2016.
On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi pledged to drive DAESH out of his country by the end of the year.
"We intend this year to make it the final year for the existence of DAESH in Iraq," he told an audience at the Munich Security Conference.
A top US intelligence officer told Congress this week any operation to retake Mosul would be long and difficult and unlikely to finish in 2016, while some officials have endorsed the assessment.
More than a million people reside in Mosul, the largest city controlled by DAESH which was seized in 2014.
The retaking of Mosul would raise encouragement amongst Iraqi forces who reclaimed the city of Ramadi from the terror group late last year.
Rasool said, troop movements south of Mosul were being coordinated with Peshmerga, armed forces of the autonomous Kurdish region north of Iraq, who are expected to join the campaign.
"Once we complete all the preparations, we will officially announce the date for the start of Mosul operations," he added.
The Iraqi military also set up a radio station at the Makhmour base to keep residents of the Nineveh province – of which Mosul is the capital - informed on military developments in the area.
"It is intended to reassure the people, to tell them that they will be liberated from DAESH," Sergeant Salem Mahmud said.
According to Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the commander of the US-led operation against DAESH, Iraqi generals do not think they will be able to recapture Mosul until the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the earliest.
The United States, which is leading an international campaign in both Iraq and Syria to defeat DAESH, has claimed that its strategy is to first take Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa and destroy the terrorists’ confidence.