By Michael Hernandez
The U.S.-led anti-Daesh fight is entering a pivotal stretch, Washington’s Middle East commander said Tuesday while cautioning a “tough fight” ahead.
“We are really into the heart of the caliphate,” Central Command commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters at the Pentagon, referring to Daesh’s self-declared state.
“We are moving into Mosul. We are moving towards Raqqah here, very, very soon,” he said.
The cities are Daesh’s capitals in Iraq and Syria respectively, and their capture is seen as critical in defeating the terror group.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he hopes to re-take Mosul, which Daesh has held since 2014, by year’s end.
That goal appears to be “on track”, Votel said. He did not provide a timeline for the liberation of Syria’s Raqqah, but said the cities are “very important for us.”
Daesh “is going to defend what he has taken and held for a long period of time. And so we should expect that there will be hard and difficult fighting there. There will be extensive use of IEDs. There will be very difficult urban fighting,” Votel said.
That difficulty will be compounded by Daesh’s likely use of human shields, he added.
“We will have to be more deliberate. We'll have to be more careful as we proceed through that,” he said. “But I am confident that in the end, we will prevail.”
Even if the cities are successfully wrested from the terror group's grip, the campaign will not be over, Votel said.
“We will continue to deal with them,” he said.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.