Iraqi forces inch towards Mosul: US-led coalition huddle in Paris to review the offensive on Islamic State

Qaraqosh: Iraqi forces were inching to within striking distance of eastern Mosul on Tuesday as defence chiefs from the US-led coalition met in Paris to review the offensive on the jihadist bastion. With the Mosul battle in its second week, French President Francois Hollande called for the coalition against the Islamic State group to prepare for the aftermath and the next stages of the war against Islamic State.

Forces from the elite counter-terrorism service (CTS) retook areas close to the eastern outskirts of Mosul, Islamic State's last major urban stronghold in Iraq. "On our front, we have advanced to within five or six kilometres (three to four miles) of Mosul," their commander, General Abdelghani al-Assadi, told AFP.

"We must now coordinate with forces on other fronts to launch a coordinated" attack on Mosul, he said, speaking from the Christian town of Bartalla. Kurdish peshmerga forces are making gains on the northeastern front, but federal forces advancing from the south have some way to go before reaching the outskirts.

Meanwhile, thousands of men from the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary umbrella group dominated by Tehran-backed Shiite militias were preparing for a push to the west of Mosul. The Hashed leadership has ordered "us to assume the mission of liberating the Tal Afar district", said Jawwad al-Tulaibawi, spokesman for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, referring to an area west of the mainly Sunni city.

 Iraqi forces inch towards Mosul: US-led coalition huddle in Paris to review the offensive on Islamic State

File photo of Iraqi forces waiting in the outskirts of Mosul. AP

The Hashed's mission will be to "cut off and prevent the escape of (IS) towards Syria and fully isolate Mosul from Syria", Tulaibawi told AFP. "We expect that it will be a difficult and fierce battle," he said. Iraqi Kurds and Sunni Arab politicians have opposed the Hashed's participation in the operation, as has Turkey, which has a military presence east of Mosul despite repeated demands by Baghdad to withdraw its forces.

Tensions have risen between Baghdad and Ankara, whose foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned Tuesday that if there is a threat to Turkey, "we are ready to use all our resources including a ground operation". In Paris, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was meeting coalition counterparts, including Pentagon chief Ashton Carter, to review the war on IS after more than two years of air strikes, training and on-the-ground military advisers.

Besides coordinating their support for the forces closing in on Mosul, ministers will also attempt to iron out differences over priorities in the campaign. France is keen to tackle the jihadists' Syria bastion Raqa, where a large number of French foreign fighters in Islamic State ranks are stationed. As the ministers met, Hollande warned that "the recapture is not an end in itself. We must already anticipate the consequences of the fall of Mosul."

"What is at stake is the political future of the city, the region and Iraq," Hollande said, calling for "all ethnic and religious groups" to have a say in the future running of Mosul.

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Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 22:02:53 IST