The U.S. has supplied 350 up-armored Humvees, more than 60 up-armored bulldozers and six portable bridges to Iraqi forces now in "final rehearsal" for the assault to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, a coalition general said Wednesday.
"I have every faith the Iraqi Security Forces are going to get this right -- Mosul is going to fall," said Canadian Brig. Gen. Dave Anderson, head of training for the assault as director of partner force development for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
The coalition's major concern is not the success of the offensive but the aftermath, Anderson said in a video briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
A holding force larger than the assault force is being prepared, composed mostly of local and national police and tribal fighters from Nineveh province, to protect against the return of ISIS, deal with up to a million displaced civilians and guard against sectarian violence, Anderson said.
He estimated that the size of the holding force would range from 35,000 to 45,000 "to protect newly liberated Iraqi citizens." He declined to give an estimate of the size of the attack force that would go up against about 3,000-5,000 fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known by the Arabic acronym "Daesh."
However, Anderson said that 12 ISF brigades ranging in strength from 800 to 1,600 troops each, or possibly as many as 20,000 in total, were preparing for the offensive. They would be joined by thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who have already taken positions to the east, north and west of Mosul.
Anderson gave no timeline for the start of the assault but said that the 12th Iraqi brigade is in the first week of a final three weeks of training for the offensive. "It's the final rehearsal, if you will, before going on stage. This is just a tune-up for some specific skills and to top off their equipment before they go.
"Mosul is going to fall; there's no doubt about it," Anderson said. "But the fall of Mosul does not mean that Daesh is defeated, by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, it's going to be more difficult" for the Iraqis to return to counterinsurgency operations to root out the remnants of ISIS and begin the process of sectarian and political reconciliation, he said.
ISIS will still control territory west of Mosul through Tal Afar and to the Syrian border after the fall of Mosul, Anderson said, but "it's the beginning of the end' for ISIS in Iraq.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.