Iraqi popular forces in their final push against ISIS

Tabnak – As the international forces are tightening their grip against ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital in Syria, the group is experiencing hard days in Iraq, too. With liberation of Mosul in their focus, Iraqi forces have also managed to push back the terrorists in other parts of the country.

In a report published today Reuters writes that Iraq's Shiite popular forces launched an offensive on Friday to drive ISIS from a desert region near the border with Syria as security forces fought the militants in the city of Mosul.

Spokesman Karim al-Nouri said the target of the operation was the Qairawan and Baaj areas about 100 km west of Mosul, where US-backed Iraqi forces are advancing in their campaign to rout the militants from city.

The Iraqi military said in a statement its air force was supporting the operation by the Shiite popular groups known collectively as Hashid al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

Earlier this week, Newsweek reported that ISIS had suffered major losses in its last Iraqi stronghold of Mosul in recent days as pro-government forces have rapidly advanced against the terrorists.

The report further indicates that with ISIS' casualties mounting and escape routes to the terrorists’ territory in neighboring Syria narrowing, the group that controlled nearly half of Iraq in 2014 has put up fierce resistance in defending the collapsing lines of the less than seven percent that remains. Despite the terrorists’ efforts, US and Iraqi officials have predicted an early victory.

A new battle plan involving a northwest advance has seen swifter success, said Iraqi special forces Lieutenant General Sami al-Arathi in a statement on Thursday. "[ISIS] didn't have any real defences prepared there for this new thrust and its manpower was depleted [...] That has led to a quick advance and now the army and police have connected with the Counter Terrorism Forces in the center,” said Iraq analyst and author of ‘Musings on Iraq‘ blog Joel Wing to The Independent.

Meanwhile, according to the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw, as Iraqi forces continue to advance against ISIS terrorists in West Mosul, their defeat is inevitable, which raises the salient question about Iraq's readiness and preparation for administrating the city after the militants’ removal.

However, analysts on Iraq, while worried, do believe there are some glimmers of hope that the city can be substantially stabilized after it’s completely pried from ISIS’ grip.

"There are no real plans, it is all improvisation at the moment. Resources are being thrown piecemeal at needs as they become available,” said Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute and noted Iraq analyst.

All in all, it seems that given the recent field developments in both Syria in Iraq, next few months will be a very hard time for the terrorists and also a decisive moment which could determine the future path of the two countries.