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Top U.S. General Visits Iraqi Kurdistan

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The article below was originally published by DoD News on April 22, 2016.

Early last week, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford visited Erbil to speak with Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

“Frankly, we spoke last night about the need for cooperation with the Kurds and I was able to deliver a message today to President [of the Iraqi Kurdistan region] Masoud Barzani that Prime Minister Abadi would work with his folks to get a plan developed for Mosul right away, and that he would consult with Barzani soonest to ensure that all the stakeholders agreed upon the plan,” the chairman said.

This is a significant change, and will help all the stakeholders in actions against ISIL, he added. “There are definitely challenges and Mosul is not going to be tomorrow,” Dunford said. “There are real political issues that need to be worked through in the coming weeks.”

Post-Mosul Plan

First, the chairman said, there has to be what Barzani called “a plan for the day after Mosul.” All players need to know what the plan is after Mosul is liberated, he said. Looming questions to be answered include determining who patrols the neighborhoods, who ensures people in the city of around 1 million are fed and who ensures ISIL doesn’t just go to ground inside the city, Dunford said.

But it is more than that, the chairman added. “The Sunnis have to be enfranchised,” he said. “There’s got to be some accommodation for Kurdish interests with the government in Baghdad dominated by, obviously, the Shia.”

That’s not news, Dunford said, it’s what has to happen “to get to a multi-sectarian unified Iraq.”

Not all this has to happen before liberating Mosul, “but there has to be an agreed-upon grand vision as the detailed plan for Mosul is written,” he said.

Plan for Liberating Mosul

The next step in the sequence is the continued generation of forces for the operation, the chairman said.

Dunford stressed that the offensive against ISIL in Mosul has already started, even though Iraqi troops are not yet directly attacking the city.

“It’s like tightening a noose,” he said. “We tighten the noose with positioning forces. We’re tightening it with strikes. We’re tightening it with targeted strikes against leadership and we’re stopping the flow of fighters between Iraq and Syria.”

Under the best circumstances, the chairman said he expects to see Iraqi forces continue to move up the river toward Mosul and make their way into the city to secure it. “It will take time,” Dunford said. “This is incredibly difficult and complex. This is a million people in a complex urban terrain with a determined enemy who has had a long time to prepare. This is going to be a tough fight.”

[To read more, visit DoD News]

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