The US anti-ISIS coalition envoy Brett McGurk said that the next battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group will be focused on the Turkmen town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq.
“When it comes to the next phase of the ISIS campaign in Tal Afar, that will probably be the next battle. It’ll happen at a time of the choosing of the Government of Iraq,” he said
“We estimate there’s about 1,000 ISIS fighters or so in Tal Afar among 20 to 40,000 civilians. So somewhat similar to Raqqa; a little bit smaller, but it’ll be very difficult.”
“This has been a hub for ISIS for three years, it has been the home for many of their leaders, it has been a place where terrible atrocities were committed against not only Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Yezidis,” McGurk said.
“In this terrible fulcrum of ISIS atrocities, many of them happened in Tal Afar. This will be very, very hard. The Iraqis are committed to liberating the people of Tal Afar, and we are committed to supporting them at a time of their choosing,” he stated.
Moreover, another important battle will be fought in the town of Hawija, in northern Iraq, according to the US envoy. “We estimate about 1,000 ISIS fighters in there,” he said.
The US official estimated that there are more civilians in Hawija than in Raqqa, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their military operations against ISIS with support of the US-led coalition.
“About 50,000 or so civilians in that pocket of territory [Hawija] – 50 to 80,000 if you look at the environs,” he said.
“This will also be a very complex operation and this – similar to Mosul, this will have to involve cooperation between the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Security Forces, and forces local to the area,” McGurk added.
Also another important battle is al-Qaim, the official said. “That has also been a heartland of ISIS. We will support the Iraqi Security Forces as they clear that and restore sovereignty to their border with legitimate Iraqi Security Forces, and we’re of course preparing for that,” he stated.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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