BAGHDAD, Iraq (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Defense Ministry announced the conclusion of arrangements made to retake Tal Afar as the military offensive against the Islamic State (IS) is already underway, the ministry said in a statement.
According to the Defense Ministry, the Iraqi army and affiliated forces are combat-ready and awaiting the official launch of the operation to liberate the city from IS.
Iranian-backed Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi, who have already begun targeting militant positions in and around the city, “will actively engage in the battle,” the Defense Ministry statement declared.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant-General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces said the duration of the fight against IS in Tal Afar was “not a concern” for the troops.
The Lieutenant-General compared the layout of the area to the recent offensive in Mosul and said he expects the battle to be “easier.”
“The plan will focus on ensuring the safety of civilians as well as our troops ahead of the liberation,” Saadi explained.
He also mentioned there were fewer IS militants in Tal Afar than there were in Mosul, but stressed the threat they pose should not be ignored.
“There could be strong resistance by the group at the start,” Saadi warned.
The extremist group reportedly began building trenches around the city “to de-escalate military advances,” sources close to the city informed.
Tal Afar, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Mosul, is one of the remaining cities in Iraq still under IS control.
The US-led coalition confirmed it would continue to support Iraqi forces with air strikes as they prepare their advance in the city.
Editing by G.H. Renaud