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Amir congratulates Iraq on Mosul ‘win’

KUWAIT CITY, July 1, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of congratulations on Thursday to Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on the recapture of Mosul City from the so-called Islamic State (IS).

In the cable, His Highness the Amir expressed his hope that Allah Almighty would help Iraq restore stability and security across the country, and enable the Iraqi people to meet their aspirations. His Highness the Amir stressed Kuwait’s stance rejecting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

His Highness the Amir also affirmed Kuwait’s solidarity with the international community to combat terrorism and dry up the sources of its finance, and the country’s support for Iraq in all measures taken to counter terrorist acts aiming to tamper with its stability and security.

In addition, His Highness the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.

National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim on Friday sent a cable of congratulations Iraqi counterpart Dr Saleem Al-Jbouri on the recapturing of Mosul City from the so-called Islamic State (IS). In the cable, Al-Ghanim voiced trust of the capability of Iraqis to carry on with safeguarding their country’s stability.

He also stressed Kuwait’s stance rejecting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. In Iraq, US Army Col Pat Work and a small team of about a dozen soldiers drove through western Mosul in two unmarked armored vehicles. Iraq’s Prime Minister had just declared the end of the Islamic State group’s caliphate the day before, but the fighting still raging on as Iraqi forces prepared for another big push Saturday morning.

The American Colonel had a series of urgent calls to make: to talk face-to-face with generals from the Iraqi Army, the federal police and the Iraqi special forces. While the gains in the Old City are bringing Iraqi troops closer to victory against IS in Mosul, they also mean three branches of the country’s security forces are now fighting in closer quarters than ever before.

The new battle space and lingering communication shortcomings mean Iraqi ground troops are at increased risk of being hit by non-precision fires like mortars and artillery by their partner Iraqi forces, he explained. Throughout the course of the day Work shuttled between bases and command centers inside the city meeting with Iraqi commanders deep inside Mosul, underscoring the increasingly prominent US role in the offensive as it enters its final days. “It’s a very violent close fight,” said Work, the commander of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team who deployed to Iraq in January.

“When the bullets aren’t enough the commanders want to turn to high explosives which might be mortars or artillery… so understanding where the other guy is all the time is kinda rule number one, so the lethal effect is directed at the target and not accidentally at another player that’s on your team.” The various forces that make up Iraq’s military have long struggled with coordination. While the Mosul operation is overseen by a joint operations command and the Prime Minister, forces on the ground maintain independent command structures, standards and cultures.

The Mosul fight is the first time all three forces have had to cooperate in an urban environment and throughout the operation the army, federal police and special forces have faced deadly setbacks when they acted independently, allowing IS fighters to concentrate their defenses on a single front. “We’re helping (Iraqi forces) see across the boundaries between their different units … just helping them understand where they are and how rapidly things might be changing,” said Work. One of Work’s stops was at a modest house in a residential west Mosul neighborhood. About a dozen US troops and Iraqi soldiers were hunched over computers identifying IS targets just a few hundred meters away ahead of the next day’s operation.

The presence of US forces at the small patrol base deep inside Mosul is a level of support that had not been authorized when the Mosul fight first began. Under the administration of US President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis moved US combat advisers closer to the fight by authorizing US troops to partner with Iraqi forces at the battalion level. The US-led coalition’s fight against IS in Iraq has slowly expanded over the past three years from a campaign of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces who largely stayed within heavily fortified bases to an operation with some 6,000 American troops on the ground, many operating close to frontline fighting.

The evolution suggests that despite a large training program designed to generate enough soldiers to retake Mosul, coalition officials assessed Iraqi forces lacked the tactical skills to conduct the operation without close support. Between meetings, as Work’s vehicle rolled through a traffic circle in western Mosul, he said being on the ground beside his Iraqi counterparts is essential. “For any commander there is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes … for talking to the stake holders who are in it making the decisions every day,” he said. “ISIS has no boundaries, so our adviser network can’t have any boundaries. And so part of it is getting out there daily to see it.” Work’s one-on-one meetings inside Mosul come with a huge operational footprint. During his visit Friday a team of dozens of US soldiers — most young men on their first deployment — provided him security and handled logistics.

At each patrol base inside Mosul where US troops work with Iraqi forces there can be dozens to over a hundred soldiers deployed to protect a team of just 10 advisers. With the vast majority of Mosul retaken from IS, soldiers trained by the coalition to fight in combat are now transitioning to act as hold forces to help provide security. Even after the last pockets of the city are retaken, Work said he doesn’t expect that will necessarily mean an end to the US role in Mosul. “Mosul is going to be a challenge, ISIS is going to continue to challenge the hold,” using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. He said US troops would continue to facilitate coordination and provide advice just as they did during the offensive. “We will continue to help Iraqi commanders recognize that this is what you fought for.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians fled Mosul’s Old City on Friday as Iraqi forces slowly squeezed the last pockets of Islamic State resistance, and the UN warned that the “intense and concentrated” fighting put innocent lives in even greater danger. People climbed over mounds of rubble and through narrow alleys as gunshots and explosions rang out nearby. The neighborhoods where government forces are fighting have been under siege for months as grueling urban warfare drew out the operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city. For the civilians held as human shields by the extremists, supplies have run low and drinking water is scarce, according to residents interviewed at screening centers and clinics by The Associated Press.

The battles came a day after Iraqi forces made significant gains against the militants and Al-Abadi declared an end to the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate. After a dawn push on Thursday, Iraqi forces retook the symbolic site where the al-Nuri Mosque once stood. It was from the pulpit of the 12th century mosque, which the militants blew up last week along with its famous leaning minaret, that their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had proclaimed the caliphate in 2014. During the evening, Al-Abadi announced that the full liberation of Mosul was near and that Iraq’s “brave forces will bring victory.” Lt Gen Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi said that by Friday afternoon, the special forces were within 700 meters (766 yards) of the Tigris River, which roughly divides Mosul into eastern and western halves.

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