Obama Backtracks Again on Mosul Liberation

During April, US President Barack Obama had two positions regarding the fate of Mosul, the ISIS capital in Iraq. At first, he said the city would be captured before the start of 2017. But on April 19, he said “My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall.”
The following month, Obama said in closed-door meetings at the White House that in the best case scenario it would be possible to place a siege, possibly a partial one, on the city by the end of the year.
In other words, ISIS will continue to control Mosul at the end of 2016 and in the beginning of 2017.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources report that there were six main considerations behind the shift in the administration’s stance.
1. Mosul has one million residents. No military force, whether American, Iraqi or Kurdish, can take upon itself the huge challenge of capturing the city.
2. Intelligence bodies carried out a secret poll among the population of Mosul in the last week of April. Two thirds of respondents said they would support the fight against ISIS even if the forces attacking the city include pro-Iranian Shiite militias. An absolute majority of about 90 percent were opposed to the entry of Shiite forces into the city.
3. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that following the poll, Americans planning the siege decided that two to three Iraqi divisions would make up 75 percent of the force, with Kurdish Peshmerga militias accounting for the remaining 25 percent. There will be a total of 50,000-60,000 troops.
4. The Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers will be supported by a large force of US attack helicopters that will start arriving in Iraq over the next few months.
5. In order for the Peshmerga to be ready for urban warfare, and for holding the siege lines, the Obama administration agreed to transfer $500 million to the Kurdish autonomous government in Irbil.
6. DEBKA Weekly’s sources report that the administration and the US military circles' doubt regarding the ability to liberate Mosul, is also reflected concerning the ability to impose a siege.
Besides the weak position of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and uncertainty whether he would order the Iraqi army to participate in such an operation, Baghdad does not agree with or accept Washington’s priorities. It wants the Iraqi army to liberate Fallujah, capital of the Anbar province, before Mosul. One of the main reasons is Iranian pressure to include pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, such as the Popular Mobilization Units and the Badar Brigades, among the forces designated to capturing the city.
However, US military commanders on the ground in Iraq do not believe that those forces are capable of dislodging ISIS from Fallujah.

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