I don't buy that this is a cause for delaying the Mosul offensive:
Iraqi forces seized the Qayara air base south of Mosul in July, in what U.S. and Iraqi officials said was a major step toward the eventual liberation of the country's second largest city, which fell to IS in 2014. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Mosul residents "to get ready for the liberation of their areas."
But Iraqi army commanders stationed at the base say it will take months of reconstruction before it is ready to receive cargo planes and house the tens of thousands of troops needed for the march on Mosul. Their assessments call into question whether Iraq will be able to launch the operation this year, as the prime minister has repeatedly pledged.
I don't buy that. It has taken an extraordinarily large amount of time to prepare this offensive. If it doesn't begin until the end of the year, it will have taken as long to prepare this offensive from when Mosul was captured by ISIL as it did to launch the D-Day invasion of France following the Pearl Harbor attack.
I admit that cleaning up the western flank in Anbar province was necessary--and I argued for that if it had to be sequential operations rather than simultaneous. But that has taken a long time, too.
Still, after all this time, it seems like the attack should begin well before the end of the year.
And saying that the airfield isn't ready to receive aircraft ignores that we don't need the airport--as I read at the time--to begin the offensive. The location of the base for logistics troops--who can live in tents in the field--is the important part.
We just don't need a fully functioning base with barracks and airport infrastructure. And claiming we do seems more like disinformation to mask an imminent attack.
Then again, I'm astounded it has taken this long to smash the relatively weak ISIL army as it tries to hold territory against a far larger army with plentiful air support.
Get on with it. ISIL certainly seems to be on a Saddam-like (he torched Kuwaiti oil fields in 1991) scorched earth policy of wrecking what they can't control.
God knows what else ISIL could do to derail the long-telegraphed offensive.
UPDATE: An American general says that Mosul could be recaptured this year:
"It's the prime minister's objective to have that done by the end of the year," General Joe Votel, head of the US military's Central Command, told reporters in a video call.
"My assessment is that we can meet the prime minister's objective, if that is what he chooses to do."
I just don't understand why it has taken this long to begin this offensive.
Maybe our enemies won't use the time we've granted them to defeat us or undermine the battlefield victory by indoctrinating impressionable young minds while ISIL controlled Mosul. Maybe the victory will be more secure for taking so much time to set up the killing blow.
But I have a nagging feeling that granting this enemy time is a mistake.
UPDATE: This is amusing:
In the last 10 days alone, the two U.S. generals leading the war effort have promised that the city of Mosul will be out of ISIS hands soon. Telegraphing the military’s next move usually is considered strategically daft, but American commanders now are spelling out the dates of their operation within weeks. ...
“It is a way to end on a high note,” one U.S. official explained. The White House “would love to see us kick off Mosul” before the administration’s term ends in January.
It isn't spelling out the timing of the offensive to capture Mosul if people (including ISIL) believe it will "kick off" (that is, begin) in January rather than being achieved by then.
And yes, as I've been writing about since the end of last year, ISIL fighters have seemingly lost the will to be martyrs for Allah.