Tal Afar (IraqiNews.com) The pro-government Popular Mobilization Forces will field 20.000 fighters for the anticipated offensive to retake the town of Tal Afar, Islamic State’s last bastion i Nineveh province, a spokesperson said.
PMF spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi said Friday that 20.000 fighters will take part in the imminent battle, saying that the recapture of the enclave “will not take more than weeks”.
Tal Afar is 65 kilometers west of Mosul, and is home to a mixed Turkmen and Arab population. Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul, Islamic State’s former capital, early July after more than eight months of U.S.-backed offensives.
Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi and his defense officials have marked Tal Afar as their next target of anti-Islamic State action. Iraqi defense officials said recently that warplanes were carrying out raids on the enclave in preparation for the ground invasion which is yet to be scheduled.
Conflicting statements have been frequent regarding the participation of the Shia-led, government-recognized mobilization forces in the liberation of Tal Afar, a town of a mixed Shia Arab and Sunni Turkmen population. Sunni Turkey has pressed Baghdad to exclude the PMFs from the anticipated campaign fearing that the militias would commit genocides against residents from opposing sects. The increasing engagement of PMFs in the battles against IS militants had also drawn opposition from Saudi officials.