French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Tuesday that the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIL group could take “months”.
“It could be a long battle, it’s not a blitzkrieg… It’s a lengthy affair (lasting) several weeks, maybe months,” he told reporters in Paris a day after the offensive began.
France to Host Talks Thursday on Mosul’s Future
France will host an international meeting Thursday on the future of Mosul, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on the second day of a major offensive to retake Iraq’s second city from the ISIL group.
“We must anticipate, plan for the ‘day after’, and the stabilization of Mosul after the military battle,” Ayrault said Tuesday, adding that Iran — which wields substantial influence in Iraq — was not invited to the talks.
“We must win the war but also look at everything that will enable us to win the peace,” he said.
The French foreign minister said the international coalition fighting ISIL also had a “responsibility” to retake Raqa, in Syria, which would be the last major city in either country under the group’s control if Mosul falls.
“Not to go on to Raqa would be a bad mistake,” Ayrault told reporters.
“If we want to fight effectively against terrorism it is essential to take this city.”
The long-awaited offensive on Mosul was launched on Monday, with some 30,000 forces involved in Iraq’s largest military operation since the pullout of US troops in 2011.
The US military, which is leading a coalition providing air and ground support, said Iraqi forces looked “ahead of schedule” but warned the battle would be long and difficult.
The coalition’s defense ministers will meet in Paris next Tuesday to assess progress in the battle for Mosul.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will be among 13 ministers at the talks, an aide to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
Le Drian said Tuesday the battle for Mosul could take “several weeks” or even months.
The ministers are also expected to stress the importance of routing the ‘jihadists’ from Raqa.
The coalition is concerned that ISIL will attempt to move fighters and military equipment from Mosul to Syria as the offensive intensifies.
Although the coalition includes around 60 countries, the meeting will comprise only Western nations providing air support.
They are: United States, France, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand.