The Iraqi general who runs Camp Taji, where Australian and New Zealand soldiers train the Iraqi Security Forces in counter-terror and urban warfare techniques, says the Islamic State has only eight months left to live in Iraq.
“We believe Daesh (or ISIS) will be finished in Iraq by the end of this year,” says General Abid Al-Kareem Mohamed Kalef. “The Americans say longer, but I don’t think so.” - reported by News.com.au
It is a view shared by some of the young Iraqi soldiers who are being trained at the base, north of Baghdad, who describe Daesh as “cowardly murderers” and reckon they will be finished by July or August.
They are fresh from the front lines fighting successful battles against Daesh and high on confidence.
Australia’s highest-ranking soldier in Iraq, Brigadier Roger Noble, is reluctant to give a time frame but says: “Defeating Daesh, we can do. Getting them out of Mosul, we can do.”
The Brigadier, who is based in Baghdad, is referring to the northern Iraqi city that has been held by Daesh since they seized it in 2014.
Its liberation will prove the most decisive and morale-boosting moment for Iraqis and the watching world, though Daesh have already lost 40 per cent of Iraqi territory they previously held.
Brigadier Noble insists that this is a fight that the Iraqis and the Kurdish Peshmerger intend to see to the end. There will be no combat role by the Australians, including from the estimated 80 special-forces operatives in the country.
While he said some special forces were assisting the Peshmerger in the north for the coming battle of Mosul, they — like those stationed elsewhere — were there to “advise and assist”.
He strongly rejected any suggestion that the word “assist” was a careful euphemism for joining the forces at the front, in battle. “They’re in the back seat,” he said.
This means they liaise directly with Iraqi commanders who formulate their own battle plans and then, if they wish, can seek advice or ask for air support as required.
He said the town of Hīt, northwest of Baghdad, was cleared by Iraqi forces last week. Australia’s special forces were closely involved, but from a distance. “They didn’t need to be in Hīt,” he said.
There are reports that the US is trying to get its troops closer to the battle, including by sending in its Apache gunships in support of the Iraqis and Kurds. But this has yet to be agreed to by the Iraqis.
After some bad early starts, which saw the Iraqi army retreating and leaving vast stores of weapons and vehicles to Daesh, there is a new confidence in Iraq.
They are ready to be rid of this enemy that came from nowhere and overran the west end of their country. They want to be the ones to finish Daesh — and Brigadier Noble says they are about to get that chance.