At an international meeting to discuss the recapture of the Isis stronghold, Brett McGurk says stabilisation schemes must keep pace with military campaign

The liberation of the Islamic State-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul is now in sight and preparations are ahead of schedule, but parallel plans for refugees and stabilization of the city must keep pace with the military advance, Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition against Isis, said on Thursday.

Speaking at a session of 30 defense and foreign ministers in Washington, including the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, McGurk said: The freeing of Mosul is now in sight and an achievable goal.

It is widely expected the assault will be published in November, although no public timeline is being given by the coalition.

Ash Carter, the US defence secretary, added: The biggest strategic concern of this group of defence ministers was that the stabilisation and governance endeavor will lag behind the military campaign. Making sure theres no such lag must be a significant strategic priority for us.

The recapture of Mosul would mark the end of the IS phony caliphate, McGurk said, adding the freeing would have to be planned with care since the world will be watching.

The coalition is anxious to ensure that the recapture of the city which has a complex ethnic structure does not lead to political or military infighting, as rival groups try to fill the power vacuum caused by the defeat of Islamic State.

McGurk uncovered detailed planning was under way to ensure that assistance organisations could speedily move in to provide food, shelter and other support for an estimated 1 million people in the city. He also said he expected Iraqi security force would be supplemented by Peshmerga forces-out and 15,000 local fighters from Nineveh province.

Iraqi
Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Isis militants on the outskirt of Makhmour, south of Mosul. Photo: Azad Lashkari/ Reuters

More than $200 m will be needed to help with the aid. A further $100 m is needed in Mosul for immediate stabilisation measures and tripling the number of police trainers for the city. He added it was also vital to ensure there was an agreed sort of government for the city that accommodates many ethnic and religious groups.

There are fears that Isis will have planted IEDs, booby traps and other potentially more dangerous weapons in a bid to defend Mosul, leading to a mass exodus from the city. McGurk pointed out that 95% of the population of the liberated city of Tikrit had now returned, but far fewer had returned to Fallujah. The UN estimates that there are currently 10 million Iraqis in need of assistance and that number is likely to exceed 13 million by years end.

The Kurdish Peshmerga military force was initially not been asked to the Washington conference even though they were in the forefront of the military campaign, prompting angry complaints concerning the Iraqi Kurds.

The US government was eager not to offend either the Iraqi government or the Turkish government by seeming t0 legitimise calls for Kurdish independence. After some diplomatic manoeuvring the Kurdish government representative in the US capital, Bayan Sami Abdulrahman, attended the meeting where she said the Kurdistan region was playing a vital role.

The Washington meeting was held against a background of controversy over military put over in in Syria. UN senior consultant Jan Egeland has expressed alarm over the continuing siege of eastern Aleppo where he said 250,000 citizens were on the brink of starvation. The alliance was forced on the back foot over reports that US airliners on Tuesday had killed more than 70 Syrian civilians in Manbij in northern Syria, a key render line from Turkey to Isiss de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa.

The Syrian rebel forces inside the Syrian National Council have called for the Americans to stop its bombing campaign in view of the civilian demises and what appears like a major failure of intelligence.

Talks are expected next week in Geneva on plans for the Americans and the Russians to coordinate their military activities in Syria. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has offered President vladimir putin a deal whereby al-Nursra Front, the Syrian al-Qaida franchise, would be listed as a legitimate target for the Russians, and in return the Syrian air force would be grounded.

Russia claims al-Nusra has been a growing terrorist force-out, and the US has been unable to persuade the rebels that it backs to extricate itself from al-Nusra.

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