IRBIL, Iraq — A senior U.S. military commander Sunday praised Iraqi forces fighting to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State, saying they were “at their peak” and adjusting well to changing realities on the battlefield.

Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe said he agrees with the forecast given by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that it will take another three months to liberate Mosul, the last Iraqi urban center in the hands of the extremist group.

“We are on pretty close to where we want to be,” Uribe said, adding that military planners knew that while the initial push toward the city would be quick, progress would become “significantly” slower on the city’s fringes.

Speaking in Irbil, capital of the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Uribe said Iraqi forces north and south of Mosul have made progress since a new advance was launched last week after a two-week lull in fighting.

A government campaign to liberate Mosul and surrounding areas in Nineveh province began in mid-October, but most of the major fighting inside the city has been done by Iraqi special forces, known as the Counter Terrorism Service.

Since the new offensive began, the special forces have pushed forward in at least two neighborhoods in the city’s eastern sector, while the army’s 9th and 16th Divisions also made headway south and north of the capital, respectively. The 9th Division was joined by units of the militarized Federal Police, while the 16th was bolstered by other army units.

Uribe said the Iraqi forces “will continue to improve because of the lessons they are learning on a daily basis.”

Uribe said Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, will face a different fight when they cross to the west bank of the Tigris River, saying it will mostly be a “dismounted” battle fought in part on narrow streets, some of which are not wide enough for a vehicle to pass.

He went on to praise Iraqi efforts to avoid harming civilians.


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