US President Barack Obama has expressed confidence that Iraqi forces and their US-led allies would be able to drive out ISIS from its self-declared capital Mosul as tens of thousands of fighters advanced in an unprecedented offencive to liberate the city.
"We are seeing the Iraqi forces, with the support of the coalition that includes the US and Italy and other nations, moving forward and encircling Mosul. The intention is to drive ISIL out of what was its first major urban stronghold and what continues to be one of the key organisational and logistical and leadership hubs for ISIL," Obama said.
"I am confident that we can succeed, although it is going to be a tough fight and a difficult fight. It is Iraqis who are doing the fighting. They are performing effectively and bravely and taking on significant casualties.
"There will be ups and downs in this process, but my expectation is that ultimately it will be successful," he told reporters yesterday at a joint news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the Rose Garden of the White House.
This he said will be a key milestone in what he committed to doing when ISIS first emerged, which was to roll them back and ultimately drive them out of population centers and destroy and defeat them so that they are not in a position to carry out terrorist attacks against our peoples or friends and allies, or against innocent people inside of Iraq and Syria.
"If in fact we are successful, how do we deal with what could be a humanitarian crisis? Because ISIL, when it occupies these territories, it bleeds them dry. It feeds off of them. It oppresses the local populations. It is not very good at governance. And so just basic functions like electricity or water start running down.
"People are fleeing from their homes. There will be significant displacement. This has all been part of the coalition planning process, in conjunction with the UN, in conjunction with major aid organisations. And so we have put together plans and infrastructure for dealing with a potential humanitarian crisis that are as extensive as the military plans," Obama said.
He said if they are not successful in helping ordinary people as they are fleeing from ISIL, then that makes them vulnerable to seeing ISIL return and feeding on the resentments in the aftermath of Mosul being liberated.
"Mosul will be a difficult fight and there will be advances and there will be setbacks. But I am confident that just as ISIL has been defeated in communities across Iraq, ISIL will be defeated in Mosul as well and that will be another step towards their ultimate destruction," Obama added.
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