The United Nations envoy for Iraq says the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in the city of Mosul is “imminent” and that its so-called “caliphate” in Iraq will soon end.
Jan Kubis, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq, told the Security Council on May 22 that the days of the IS caliphate “are numbered.”
He credited “the bravery and patriotism of the Iraqi security forces, including the popular mobilization forces, the [Kurdish] peshmerga, and the tribal volunteers, as well as the endurance of the Iraqi people."
He said the liberation of Mosul, the extremist group’s last significant stronghold in Iraq, is “imminent” and that “operations are shifting to remaining areas and pockets of [IS] presence, including along the borders with Syria."
He cautioned, though, that desperate IS militants are increasingly using civilians as human shields, meaning that fighting remains "a tremendous challenge.”
Iraqi military officials said on May 20 that the territory controlled by IS militants in west Mosul has been reduced to eight square kilometers, but the area includes the Old City, where the heaviest fighting of the campaign is likely still to come.
Iraqi forces backed by U.S. and coalition air support in October began the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
The eastern half was retaken earlier this year, and troops are facing fierce IS resistance in more heavily populated west Mosul.
IS fighters captured Mosul in 2014 as they gained wide swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in battles against government troops.