The Latest: More than 100 US troops with Iraqi forces

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2016 12:50 PM
The Latest: More than 100 US troops with Iraqi forces

KHAZER, Iraq (AP) — The Latest on the Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group (all times local):

7:46 p.m.

A Pentagon spokesman says more than 100 U.S. troops are embedded with Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, as they advance toward Mosul.

The spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Tuesday that the Americans are "well back" from the front lines as they advise the Iraqis and perform other tasks such as relaying information received from frontline Iraqis about potential Islamic State targets for coalition airstrikes. Some hundreds of other U.S. troops are in support roles such as processing intelligence and providing logistical help from Iraqi staging bases.

Davis said U.S. warplanes are supporting the Iraqis, as expected, and that American artillery is being used against Islamic State targets. He would not be more specific about the use of U.S. artillery.


3:45 p.m.

France's foreign minister is pulling together an urgent international meeting for a stabilization plan for Mosul as the push to free the city from the Islamic State group advances.

Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday that he and his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim a-Jaafari, would gather more than 20 countries and international organizations to come up with a plan to protect civilians, distribute aid and address questions about governing areas newly liberated by the Islamic State group.

The meeting is expected on Thursday in Paris.


3:30 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister has backtracked from his comments earlier in the day stating that the Turkish air force had taken part in airstrikes during the operation underway to free Mosul from the Islamic State group.

Asked for clarification about it, Binali Yildirim told reporters later Tuesday that there is an agreement "in principle" for the Turkish air force to be part of the U.S.-led coalition. The remarks were reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Anadolu quoted Yildirim as saying the planes would join the aerial operations "when necessary."

When asked if Turkish planes had already joined coalition operations, Yildirim said: "I don't know the details of the operation but what is important is for them to be part of the coalition."


3:15 p.m.

A U.N. official says the world body expects people to start fleeing the northern Iraqi city of Mosul "basically any minute now."

Spokesman Jens Laerke of U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator OCHA told reporters on Tuesday in Geneva that "we haven't seen any big rush out yet" from Iraq's second-largest city.

Iraq's government on Monday launched an operation to recapture the city from the radical Islamic State group. Several U.N. agencies have been stepping up preparations for an expected exodus from Mosul.

U.N. officials variously expressed concerns that IS could use chemical weapons or use civilians as human shields to try to fend off a government advance. Refugee agency UNHCR also expressed concerns that it might not have enough land to set up tent camps for evacuees


2:10 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister says the country's air force was involved in airstrikes alongside the U.S.-backed coalition as part of the operation underway to free Mosul from the Islamic State group.

Binali Yildirim also said on Tuesday that local fighters trained by Turkish troops in the contentious northern Iraqi camp of Bashiqa were at the forefront of the Mosul operation, fighting alongside the Kurdish peshmerga forces. Yildirim spoke in a weekly address to his ruling party's legislators.

The comments were in response to calls from Baghdad on Turkey to withdraw its troops and accusations that Ankara was violating Iraq's sovereignty.

The battle for Mosul was launched on Monday.

Yildirim says that with the Turkish participation in the airstrikes, "those who say 'Turkey has no business in Mosul' have gotten their answer."


1:30 p.m.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says a delegation from Iraq is expected in Turkey this week for talks to overcome a dispute over Turkish troop presence in northern Iraq.

Cavusoglu told reporters in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, that the visit could take place on Thursday or later in the week. His comments were reported by Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency.

He says both Turkey and Iraq "have the will to solve this issue through dialogue."

Iraq says Turkish troops based in a camp in Bashiqa in northern Iraq are violating Iraqi sovereignty and should withdraw. Turkish leaders have repeatedly said the troops will remain to train local fighters and Turkey will take part in the operation to re-take the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. That offensive began on Monday.

Cavusoglu says that Ankara "absolutely support Iraq's territorial integrity" and wants to see "Iraq cleaned of terror."

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Umit Yalcin arrived in Baghdad on Monday, to discuss Bashiqa and the Mosul operation.


12:30 p.m.

Thousands of followers of an Iraqi Shiite cleric are marching in front of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from a base near the northern city of Mosul.

Turkey says the troops are training Iraqi fighters to help retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, and that they are there with the permission of the Iraqi government. Baghdad denies it granted permission and has ordered them to withdraw — a call Ankara has ignored.

At Tuesday's rally in Baghdad, the followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr chanted: "Get out, Get out, occupier," and "Yes, yes, for Iraq."

Sheikh Majid al-Fartousi, a Sadrist representative, says: "We condemn Turkish interference in Iraqi affairs. No one should trespass and occupy Iraqi soil."

The tensions between Baghdad and Ankara have raised concerns about the offensive to retake Mosul, which officially began on Monday. The operation involves some 25,000 army troops, Kurdish forces, Sunni fighters and Shiite militias. The various fighting units are allied against IS, but many have a history of animosity toward each other.


11:30 a.m.

An Iraqi special forces commander says his troops have delayed their advance that's part of the offensive to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul following a request from Kurdish forces for more time to achieve their objectives.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his men had planned to move at dawn, but postponed upon a request from the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga.

A Kurdish commander had earlier told AP that his forces were consolidating gains made yesterday, when the peshmerga seized a handful of small villages east of the city.

The large and complex operation to recapture Mosul, Iraq's largest city, began Monday and is expected to last weeks or months. It involves a wide array of forces approaching the IS-held city, Iraq's second largest, from different directions.


10 a.m.

Iraq's Kurdish forces say they are pausing in their advance on Mosul after capturing a handful of villages to the east from the Islamic State group as the Iraqi army presses ahead with the next stage of the operation to retake the IS-held city.

Col. Khathar Sheikhan of the Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, says his troops achieved their objectives and "are just holding our positions" in the Khazer area on Tuesday.

The pause comes after a day of intense fighting involving airstrikes, heavy artillery and IS car bombs.

The battle for Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and the IS group's last urban bastion, started on Monday. It's expected to take weeks or even months.

The front line east of Mosul is some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the city.