US-backed Iraqi forces launch operation to retake Tal Afar from ISIS

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Iraqi soldiers are pictured surveying the battle scene in Qayyarah District. File photo: AFP

ARA News

The US-led Global Coalition against ISIS welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi’s statement on Sunday announcing the launch of the offensive to liberate Tal Afar and the remainder of Ninewah province and northern Iraq from ISIS militants, said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

All branches of the Iraqi Security Forces will take part in the liberation of Tal Afar – the 9th, 15th and 16th Iraqi Army Divisions, the Counter Terrorism Service, the Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, Iraqi Local Police as well as Popular Mobilization Forces under the command of Prime Minister al-Abadi.

“Following their historic victory in Mosul, the ISF have proven themselves a capable, formidable, and increasingly professional force, and they are well prepared to deliver another defeat to ISIS in Tal Afar,” the coalition said.

The Coalition will continue to help the Government and Security Forces to liberate the Iraqi people and defeat ISIS through five means – by providing equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice.

“Mosul was a decisive victory for the Iraqi Security Forces, but it did not mark the end of ISIS in Iraq, or its worldwide threat. The ISF’s operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of ISIS,” said Townsend. “The Coalition is strong, and fully committed to supporting our Iraqi partners until ISIS is defeated and the Iraqi people are free.”

The Coalition estimates that approximately 10,000-50,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar.

“So I would — there is, you know, some significance, where it is in relation to the border with Syria, and Tal Afar has been for some time a — one of the last places prior to moving in and out of Syria,” Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon said last week.

“However, with the — the operations largely from the popular mobilization forces earlier in the last couple of months to isolate Tal Afar, they have not been able to — “they” being ISIS — to transit that area as freely as they used to, if at all,” he added.

“So that — that leads to some strategic importance of where it is in relation to Syria and the fighters that are there,” he concluded.

“The coalition estimates there are about 2,000 ISIS fighters in and around Tal Afar.  We fully expect this to be a difficult fight to root out ISIS from one of their last strongholds in Iraq,” he stated.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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