Baghdad (AIN) -The Guardian Newspaper reported that the Iraqi security forces and the volunteers will kick the ISIL out of Tikrit.
The reports cited “The combined force of Iranian-backed militias and Iraqi government troops is likely to prevail against Islamic State forces in the unfolding battle for Tikrit, America’s top general has said.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters on an aircraft on his way to Iraq that he believes the Islamist militants will be pushed out of Tikrit.
“The numbers are overwhelming,” he said, as the fighting in Iraq gathered pace.
Dempsey said about 23,000 Iranian-based Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers are involved in the offensive, compared to only “hundreds” of IS fighters.
The offensive is not what the Americans would consider textbook military tactics, he said, describing a hodge-podge of Iraqi Humvees, trucks and other vehicles surging toward Tikrit like “rush hour on the Washington Beltway”.
“I wouldn’t describe it as a sophisticated military manoeuvre,” he said.
Dempsey was flying to Iraq to meet US commanders and Iraqi government leaders on Saturday.
Isis forces surprised the US by taking control of much of northern Iraq in August last year, including Tikrit, which is the birthplace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
But the US and its allies have since launched hundreds of airstrikes at Isis targets and credits its attacks with halting the group’s territorial advances.
“If it weren’t for the [US-led coalition] air campaign over time depleting the [Isis] forces in Beyji … then the current campaign would not be militarily feasible,” he said.
Isis forces had surged into Beyji, which lies just north of Tikrit, in hopes of controlling a key oil refinery there. But they have been halted and tied down by a series of airstrikes, Dempsey said. That little-noted setback has divided and weakened its forces, he added.
“The important thing about this operation in Tikrit is less about how the military aspect of it goes and more about what follows,” Dempsey said.
The mostly Sunni population of Tikrit must be allow to returned to their homes, and the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad must step in with reconstruction and humanitarian aid, he said.
If that happens, “then I think we’re in a really good place,” he said. If it does not happen, then the future could be problematic, he said.
The key task for Iraq’s leaders, Dempsey said, is to balance the Iranian role in empowering Shiite militias with Iraq’s partnership with the U.S. and other coalition members.
“The only one that can balance that is the prime minister of Iraq,” Dempsey said. “So I want to get his views on how he is seeking to balance that concern.”