US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the battle to oust the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) terrorist group from Iraq’s second largest city will be “tough” but ultimately successful.
“There will be advances and there will be setbacks,” he said at a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
“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,” he added.
The group has been in control of Mosul since June 2014. Iraqi forces began the long-anticipated offensive to recapture the city early Monday.
Obama said that the campaign’s main goal is to defeat ISIL militarily along with a focus “on the safety and the humanitarian aid for civilians who are escaping the fight”, knowing that approximately 1 million civilians remain seized inside the city.
“That will be a top priority for both our governments,” he added.
The defeat of ISIL in Mosul, first urban stronghold of the terrorist group, could be a major turning point in the fight against terrorism. The city has long been featured prominently in its propaganda as ISIL seeks to portray itself as a state.
“This will be I think a key milestone in what I committed to doing when ISIL first emerged, which was ‘going to roll them back and to ultimately drive them out of population centers’,” Obama said.
“And we will destroy them and defeat them so that they are not in a position to carry out extremist attacks against our peoples or our friends and allies, or against innocent people inside of Iraq and Syria,” he added.