Retaking the city of Mosul from Islamic State forces will not be easy. For months, American and Iraqi military planners have agonized over the correct approach to liberating Iraq’s second largest city from the hands of ISIS fighters. Many fear that the siege will take months, consist of house-to-house clearing operations and brutal street fighting, and may not have a clear outcome until weeks after the battle has begun. The first step toward liberating Mosul, however, is to engage in the fight. On Thursday, American military planners revealed that it was their intention to do just that starting the summer.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, American, Iraqi, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have begun the process of training and equipping military units ahead of an anticipated operation to retake the city. They have also begun the process of severing ISIS supply lines to that major metropolis in preparation for a siege set to begin after the spring.

American military planners warn, however, that the operation will take time to complete. “If we did things alone or with some of the other allies on the ground, it could move faster,” Gen. Lloyd Austin told reporters at Central Command headquarters in Florida. “But the Iraqis have to do this themselves.”

**Under that plan, Gen. Austin said two Iraqi divisions are expected to lead the force that retakes Mosul this spring, forces that will go to U.S.-run training centers in the coming weeks to prepare for the offensive. Those forces will receive four to six weeks training by the U.S. to prepare for the fight in Mosul, according to military officials.

Military officials say they face a challenge in convincing Iraqi leaders to release their best and most experienced units from the defense of Baghdad and commit them to the offensive. Senior U.S. officials have told Iraqi counterparts that the only way to ultimately ensure the safety of the capital is to push Islamic State forces out of Mosul and other key areas they continue to control.

“Most of the best Iraqi units are in Baghdad, and that is the thing we have to shake them free of,” said a senior military officer. “They are reluctant to let their best units leave.”**

This underscores a major strategic conundrum facing the Pentagon. The White House would prefer to see Iraqi military units take the lead on this offensive, but it is the Kurdish forces that are best positioned to take the fight to the enemy in Mosul. If they are successful, as the Voice of America reported, internal divisions and rivalries will quickly fracture the victorious Kurds.

**KDP leaders are suspicious that the PKK is aiming to establish a stronghold in the Sinjar region in western Iraq near Mosul, the home to the minority Yazidis. The PKK established a safe corridor for Yazidis in the face of an onslaught by Islamic militants last autumn when the Iraqi Peshmerga fell back.

“Many believe that the internal Kurdish divisions could benefit the Islamic State group,” warned analysts Wladimir Van Wilgenbur and Vager Saadullah. They note in an article for the website Middle East Eye that squabbling between the Kurds has prevented the recapturing of Sinjar – another key town on supply lines linking Raqqa with Mosul.**

But maybe all this concern is misplaced. After all, according to Iraq’s governor of Nineveh province, the liberation of Mosul will be a cakewalk.

**“It will not be a big battle. It will be easy to free Mosul,” Atheel Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

“Inside the city we now have a predominantly military force to make problems, to fight ISIS,” he said, using one of the acronyms for the militant group. “Some of those people are from the groups that stopped working with ISIS, but they do not want to announce their names, as they know ISIS knows all their details. But they are now working with us.”**

Maybe it won’t be so bad after all…
Retaking the city of Mosul from Islamic State forces will not be easy. For months, American and Iraqi military planners have agonized over the correct approach to liberating Iraq’s second largest city from the hands of ISIS fighters. Many fear that the siege will take months, consist of house-to-house clearing operations and brutal street fighting, and may not have a clear outcome until weeks after the battle has begun. The first step toward liberating Mosul, however, is to engage in the fight. On Thursday, American military planners revealed that it was their intention to do just that starting the summer.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, American, Iraqi, and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have begun the process of training and equipping military units ahead of an anticipated operation to retake the city. They have also begun the process of severing ISIS supply lines to that major metropolis in preparation for a siege set to begin after the spring.

American military planners warn, however, that the operation will take time to complete. “If we did things alone or with some of the other allies on the ground, it could move faster,” Gen. Lloyd Austin told reporters at Central Command headquarters in Florida. “But the Iraqis have to do this themselves.”

Under that plan, Gen. Austin said two Iraqi divisions are expected to lead the force that retakes Mosul this spring, forces that will go to U.S.-run training centers in the coming weeks to prepare for the offensive. Those forces will receive four to six weeks training by the U.S. to prepare for the fight in Mosul, according to military officials.

Military officials say they face a challenge in convincing Iraqi leaders to release their best and most experienced units from the defense of Baghdad and commit them to the offensive. Senior U.S. officials have told Iraqi counterparts that the only way to ultimately ensure the safety of the capital is to push Islamic State forces out of Mosul and other key areas they continue to control.

“Most of the best Iraqi units are in Baghdad, and that is the thing we have to shake them free of,” said a senior military officer. “They are reluctant to let their best units leave.”

as the Voice of America reported, internal divisions and rivalries will quickly fracture the victorious Kurds.

KDP leaders are suspicious that the PKK is aiming to establish a stronghold in the Sinjar region in western Iraq near Mosul, the home to the minority Yazidis. The PKK established a safe corridor for Yazidis in the face of an onslaught by Islamic militants last autumn when the Iraqi Peshmerga fell back.

“Many believe that the internal Kurdish divisions could benefit the Islamic State group,” warned analysts Wladimir Van Wilgenbur and Vager Saadullah. They note in an article for the website Middle East Eye that squabbling between the Kurds has prevented the recapturing of Sinjar – another key town on supply lines linking Raqqa with Mosul.

But maybe all this concern is misplaced. After all, according to Iraq’s governor of Nineveh province, the liberation of Mosul will be a cakewalk.

“It will not be a big battle. It will be easy to free Mosul,” Atheel Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

“Inside the city we now have a predominantly military force to make problems, to fight ISIS,” he said, using one of the acronyms for the militant group. “Some of those people are from the groups that stopped working with ISIS, but they do not want to announce their names, as they know ISIS knows all their details. But they are now working with us.”

Maybe it won’t be so bad after all…