A U.S.-led coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish forces will attempt to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS militants.
"Our dearest people in Nineveh province, the victory bell has rung, and the operations to liberate Mosul have begun," said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a televised statement, according to CNN. "I am announcing today the beginning of these heroic operations to liberate you from the brutality and terrorism of ISIS. God willing, we will meet soon on the ground of Mosul where we will all celebrate the liberation and your freedom."
The effort to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, could involve more than 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops, reported The New York Times.
They won't be alone. American special forces troops are also on the ground, along with British and French troops, to advise the Kurdish and Iraqi forces, as well as to help coordinate airstrikes by American warplanes, reported The Guardian.
More than 1 million civilians live in Mosul and have been stockpiling food and other basic necessities in preparation for a battle that could last several weeks or even months, reported Reuters.
Mosul has been a stronghold for ISIS, which has only between 3,500 and 4,500 soldiers there to fight the 30,000-plus troop coalition led by the U.S. and supported by U.S. air strength. But its location is in the oil-rich part of Iraq, which has helped ISIS fund its operations, making it a crucial spot for the terrorist group.
According to CNN, Haider al-Abadi, who became Prime Minister of Iraq in September 2014, is eager to defeat ISIS and prove his government's legitimacy as well as its military prowess.
“We have been battling ISIS for more than two years,” said Haider al-Abadi, according to The Guardian. “We started fighting ISIS in the outskirts of Baghdad, and thank God we are now fighting them in the outskirts of Mosul, and God willing the decisive battle will be soon.”