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Plans Take Shape for Iraqi Assault on Mosul


An Iraqi army member looks toward Islamic State group territory outside Qayyarah, Oct. 4, 2016. Qayyarah has become an important staging ground for military and humanitarian efforts ahead of the Mosul operation.

An Iraqi army member looks toward Islamic State group territory outside Qayyarah, Oct. 4, 2016. Qayyarah has become an important staging ground for military and humanitarian efforts ahead of the Mosul operation.

Iraqi troops are gearing up to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State, in an assault expected to begin later this month. Officials of the U.S.-led coalition assisting Iraq say up to 45,000 troops will be needed to keep Mosul secure after it is recaptured.

The Iraqi security team protecting Mosul will include about 8,000 police from Ninevah Province and 10,000 to 12,000 members of tribal forces from the surrounding area, according to Canadian Brigadier General Dave Anderson, the director of coalition training operations in Iraq.

"The important thing is that they are local, and that is the key, particularly for Mosul and [its residents] who are about to be liberated," Anderson told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon. "It needs to be people from the area and of the area."

FILE - Iraqi security forces wait for vehicles traveling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb 21, 2016.

FILE - Iraqi security forces wait for vehicles traveling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb 21, 2016.

Police and other local forces will be assigned to protect Mosul, the general added, while Iraqi units from other parts of the country will guard areas outside the city. Mosul, the capital of Ninevah Province, had an estimated population of about two-and-one-half million at the time it was overrun by Islamic State fighters in June 2014.

Some units of the massive force being assembled by Iraq need about two more weeks of training, Anderson said.

Twelve brigades of Iraqi forces, each made up of 800 to 1,600 troops, are preparing for the assault. Iraqi ground forces, backed by coalition airstrikes, will take on between 3,000 and 5,000 Islamic State fighters entrenched in the city.

Anderson said some Iraqi soldiers bound for Mosul have been fighting across the country, and they need a final round of training to "tune up" some specific skills and "top off their equipment before they go."

"The only thing better than winning 7-0 is winning 100-0," the senior Canadian officer said. "There's no point in leaving anything to chance here. Overwhelming odds always help. No one is looking for a close game or a tie in war."

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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