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Iraqi forces gain foothold in northwest Mosul after surprise new push

Iraqi forces gain foothold in northwest Mosul after surprise new push

Iraqi forces gain foothold in northwest Mosul after surprise new push

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been forced to deny that U.S. combat troops will remain in his country following the final defeat of the Islamic State group.

Iraqi officials have since said the battle would be over by the end of May, though some military observers remain skeptical it will be completed before late summer.

A member of the Iraqi forces walks towards a military vehicle as they advance towards the al-Haramat neighborhood, north of Mosul, on May 5, 2017, during the ongoing offensive to retake the area from Takfiri Daesh militants.

The spokesman for the ministry of defense says Iraqi forces have begun a push along the northern edge of Mosul's western half.

The new offensive meant that Islamic State forces were battling on two fronts against Iraqi forces in areas including the historic Old City and the streets around the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, an important stronghold. United States officials have made clear that this won't impact their deployment to Iraq, and talks are now said to be ongoing to cement that as a reality.

The Pentagon has close to 7,000 troops in Iraq. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces' need for support.

President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized former President Barack Obama's 2010 decision to pull all us troops out of Iraq during the 2016 campaign. Officials from Washington and Baghdad confirmed the talks to allow American troops to remain in several bases in Baghdad, as well as positions along the Syrian border and near the ISIS-held city of Mosul, the AP reported Thursday.

During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the USA and Iraq.

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The Iraqi immigration ministry said this week that the number of people who were displaced since the start of the offensive on Mosul on October 17 had topped 600,000.

The Iraqi prime minister added that the Iraqi government has plans and strategies to develop the capabilities of its security forces through training and arming so that they are fully prepared to counter any future security challenges.

Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq's dependence on both the US and Iran.

After a territorial victory, Iraqi and US-led coalition officials have warned of the potential for IS to carry out insurgent attacks in government held territory.

But getting to the mosque has proven to be troublesome for security forces.

There, al-Baghdadi designated the terror group's caliphate after they took over nearly a third of Iraq.

US air support has proved vital for spotting suicide auto bombs and for avoiding targets where civilians are trapped.

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