Ground Offensive against ISIL Months Away in Iraq: US
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Iraqi forces are months away from being able to start waging any kind of sustained ground offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and any similar effort in Syria will take longer, officials at the US military's Central Command said.
In Iraq, the timing will depend on a host of factors, some out of the military's control - from Iraqi politics to the weather.
Iraqi forces also must be trained, armed and ready before major advances, like one to retake the city of Mosul, which fell to the ISIL in June.
"It's not imminent. But we don't see that that's a years-long effort to get them to a place to where they can be able to go on a sustained counter-offensive," a military official said, instead describing it as a "months-long" endeavor.
The officials, briefing a group of reporters, said the priority in Iraq was halting the ISIL's advance but acknowledged Iraq's western Anbar province was contested, despite US-led air strikes.
Iraq's main military divisions in Anbar - the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and twelfth – have been badly damaged. At least 6,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed through June and double that number have deserted, say medical and diplomatic sources, Reuters reported.
Asked about whether US military advisers in Iraq might head to Anbar, the first official acknowledged discussions were underway broadly about efforts to enable the Iraqis "as far forward as we can" but did not disclose details. The official said talks were also underway with coalition partners about where their advisers might be placed.
Still, the official cautioned Abadi's government must still prove itself and added that the US military would not "squander our credibility" by vouching for it now. Instead, it is limiting itself brokering talks between the government and tribes.
"Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don't think, I don't think we're in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government," the official said.
As the officials outlined a long-term battle in Iraq, they portrayed a longer-term effort in Syria.
Much of the timing in Syria is wrapped up in a planned training mission for US-backed forces whose first goal, one official said, would be defensive - to ensure more towns do not fall.