On Wednesday, Iraqi Shi’ite militia said that they had succeeded in driving the fighters of Islamic State away from an airbase west of Mosul. This victory has the potential of becoming a major threat to the supply route of the Sunni group from Syria to the last notable stronghold it has in Iraq. Popular Mobilisation is a coalition of mostly Iranian-backed militia and their spokesman, Yusif al-Kallabi reported that they had liberated the airport of Tal Afar. If confirmation is received regarding the capture of the base, it could be considered a significant boost in the campaign of taking back Mosul from the Islamic State.
In 2014, forces of the Islamic State had swept Iraq and had chosen to make Mosul their de facto capital. They had established a self-declared caliphate in northern Iraq and a part of Syria. The airport lies on the main road to Syria and is at a distance of 38 miles west of Mosul. However, the recapture of the airport could be alarming for Turkey as they are wary of the involvement of Iraqi Shi’ite in the civil war in Syria. Head of the largest component of Popular Mobilisation called Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri said that the liberation of Tal Afar is only the first step.
Soon, it would move lead to the freedom of the entire area and then go beyond the Syrian border as well. The Shi’ite coalition is busy waging war against the Islamic State west of Mosul whereas regular police and army units are trying to do the same from the other sides. These units are supported by the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who are attacking from the east and north. Two weeks ago, the defenses of the Islamic State in east Mosul were breached by the counter-terrorism forces in Iraq, but the militants have shown a lot of resistance.
They are fighting back with snipers, suicide car bombs as well as plenty of counter-attacks. Launched on October 17th, this campaign is the biggest military operation to be conducted in Iraq and involves ground and air support from a US-led coalition. It has been a decade of turmoil for the country, which began from the invasion in 2003, which had toppled Saddam Hussein. Known by its Arabic name Hashid Shaabi, Popular Mobilisation has said that they are planning to use the airbase at Tal Afar for taking the battle against the Sunni terrorist group in Syria.
They will fight with an ally of Iran, President Bashar al-Assad. Officially, the organization does report to Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, but Iran is mainly responsible for training and equipping them. Before Tal Afar was captured by the Islamic State in 2014, it had a mixed population of mainly Sunni and Shi’ite Turkmen. The advancement of Popular Mobilisation to this area has alarmed neighboring Turkey as they are worried about sectarian strife. Last month, Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president said that they were reinforcing their troops on the Iraqi border and would respond if ‘terror’ was caused by Iraqi militia in Tal Afar.