(IraqiNews.com) Nineveh – The Qayyarah air base, which the Iraqi forces hoped to use as a staging area to take Mosul back from ISIS, was almost completely destroyed by the retreating ISIS militants, raising new doubts over whether the long-awaited operation will begin this year or not.
Iraqi army commanders stationed at the base said that it will take months of reconstruction before it is ready to receive cargo planes and house the tens of thousands of troops needed for the march on Mosul.
Col. Karim Rodan Salim said, “ISIS began destroying Qayyarah base from the moment they took it over, no less than 95 percent of the base has been destroyed,” adding that, “What we see here was an organized destruction but we were expecting it, ISIS never leaves anything behind.”
“It will take at least six months of rebuilding before the base is ready for the 50,000 troops that will be needed to retake Mosul,” Salim added.
ISIS captured Qayyarah air base in 2014, when it swept across much of northern and western Iraq and drove Iraqi troops out of Mosul.
The coalition hopes to transform the base into a logistics center ahead of the Mosul operation. The Pentagon announced earlier this month that about 400 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq as part of that effort.
Meanwhile, US commander of coalition land forces in Iraq Major General Gary Volesky said, “The seizure of this base is important because it demonstrates the Iraqi security forces’ ability to maintain momentum as ISIS gets weaker and continues to lose territory.”
ISIS has retreated from areas around Mosul in recent days, including the nearby city of Qayyarah, but it has sabotaged infrastructure on its way out, leaving behind a destruction that in the short-term is hindering further advances by Iraqi forces and in the long-term will require great reconstruction effort.