US, Iraq talk post-ISIS force

Posted May 06, 2017

The US-backed Iraqi forces imposed a siege on Islamic State's (ISIS) militants in the northwestern part of the war-torn city of Mosul, officials reported on Thursday.

"The remaining Daesh [ISIS] terrorists in Mosul are now under heavy siege by the Iraqi forces in the northwestern corner of the city", an army official who did not want to be named said.

The U.S. and Iraq are in talks to keeping American troops in the country after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.

Iraqi forces seem to be circling the old city before proceeding with their operation to clear it.

The IS fighters have, in recent days, carried out a number attacks against security forces in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Brig. Gen. John B. Richardson IV, a top US commander in northern Iraq, has said officials fear the longer the battle drags on, the deadlier it will become, especially for civilians.

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Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 USA troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules.

A USA -led global coalition is providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Mosul, Islamic State's de facto capital in Iraq, which started in October.

Separately, Captain Ali al-Bahadoli of Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said government forces had lobbed a barrage of missiles at an area west of Mosul, killing scores of Daesh militants. In January, Iraqi forces announced that the city's eastern half had been "liberated".

Abadi moderated his comments saying that the only USA troops who should remain would provide training assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to maintain "full readiness" in case of "future security challenges". The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the USA and Iraq.

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Mosul fell to IS almost three years ago and the operation to retake it was launched in October.

Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq's dependence on both the US and Iran. Iraqi forces backed by USA artillery and air power have retaken the eastern half of the city, and are battling to reclaim the western half in brutal urban combat.

But getting to the mosque has proven to be troublesome for security forces.

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has long criticised the presence of United States troops in Iraq, even going so far as to describe them as a potential "target" for his supporters.

Since then, a highly publicized surge in civilian casualties, likely the result of increasing USA airstrikes coupled with ISIS's broadened use of human shields, has slowed the Iraqi momentum.

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