US general confident in Iraqis in Mosul fight

FILE - In this June 23, 2014, file photo, fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq. An online image released Wednesday purported to show the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt had beheaded a Croatian hostage. (AP Photo/File)

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The top general in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says Iraqi forces are ready to retake Mosul and that the coalition is “confident they will succeed.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky says that “Mosul will be a hard fight, but the Iraqi security forces are ready. They’ve been waiting to liberate Mosul for two years, and today is the day.”

Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a massive operation on Monday to retake Mosul, which fell to IS in the summer of 2014. The U.S. is supporting them with airstrikes, and U.S. soldiers are serving in a support role on the ground.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told CNN that “it’s the Iraqis who are in the lead.”

Cook declined to address a campaign issue when he was asked about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments that by saying what it’s going to do, the coalition is telegraphing its moves to the enemy:

He did say, however, that “there is an element of surprise as to how this is going to be carried out.”

An Islamic State-run media outlet says the group has launched a series of suicide attacks targeting Kurdish forces advancing on the militant-held city of Mosul.

The Aamaq news agency is claiming eight suicide attacks against the Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, and says IS destroyed two Humvees belonging to the Kurdish forces and Shiite militias east of the city on Monday.

The Kurdish Rudaw TV meanwhile broadcast images of Kurdish tanks firing on two IS suicide truck bombs, one of which crashed and exploded.

The peshmerga are taking part in a massive operation to liberate Mosul, alongside the Iraqi military, Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias. It is the most complex operation launched in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops five years ago.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to IS in the summer of 2014.

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