During a visit south of Mosul today, a senior US official praised territorial gains against the Islamic State group in Iraq, but local officials cautioned more aid is needed to rebuild on the heels of victories against the extremists.
The Mosul fight is approaching its "final stages," Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition against the IS, told The Associated Press during a meeting with Iraqi military and civilian officials at a water treatment plant near the town of Hamam al-Alil.
"The world is now seeing that (Iraqi) soldiers are completely destroying Daesh," McGurk said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group that is also referred to as IS, ISIS and ISIL. He described the fight to retake Mosul, which was launched nearly seven months ago, as one of the most difficult urban battles since World War II.
But the men who had gathered to receive McGurk and US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman were dressed in suits, not fatigues and they had come asking for aid, not weapons and training.
With the fight against IS in Iraq about to enter its fourth year, more than half of the territory the extremists once held is now under government control, but with those advances has come greater demand for reconstruction money.
The US military footprint in Iraq has steadily grown in the build-up to and throughout the Mosul operation, but US funds for humanitarian relief and stabilization remain a fraction of defense spending in the IS fight.
"We are looking for more support as the west side of the city will be liberated soon," Maj. Gen. Muhammed al-Shimary with Nineveh Operations Command told McGurk after thanking him for US assistance in the fight so far.
Last year under the Obama administration, McGurk emphasized the need for a balance between "speed and sustainability" in the fight against IS.
"Before you launch a major operation you have to have in place who is going to hold the city, who is going to govern the city," he told the Senate foreign relations committee during testimony in June 2016.
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