Iraqi security forces have begun their offensive to liberate the city of Tal Afar from Islamic State, officials said today.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a statement earlier today announcing the launch of the offensive to liberate Tal Afar and the remainder of Ninevah province and northern Iraq from IS, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.

All branches of the Iraqi security forces will take part in the liberation of Tal Afar: the 9th, 15th and 16th Iraqi army divisions, the counterterrorism Service, the federal police and emergency response division and the Iraqi local police, as well as popular mobilization forces under Abadi’s command, task force officials said.

“Following their historic victory in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves a capable, formidable and increasingly professional force, and they are well-prepared to deliver another defeat to ISIS in Tal Afar,” coalition officials said in a statement.

“The coalition will continue to help the government and security forces to liberate the Iraqi people and defeat ISIS through five means: by providing equipment, training, intelligence, precision fires and combat advice.”  

Though the recent liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was a decisive victory for the Iraqi security forces, it did not mark the end of Islamic State, or its worldwide threat,” Townsend said.

“The [Iraqi security forces] operation to liberate Tal Afar is another important fight that must be won to ensure the country and its citizens are finally free of ISIS,” he added. “The coalition is strong, and fully committed to supporting our Iraqi partners until ISIS is defeated and the Iraqi people are free.” 

Coalition officials estimate that 10,000 to 50,000 civilians remain in and around Tal Afar, the task force statement said, and the coalition applies rigorous standards to its targeting process and takes “extraordinary efforts” to protect noncombatants.

“In accordance with the laws of armed conflict and in support of its partnered forces who are risking their lives every day in the fight against an evil enemy, the coalition will continue to strike valid military targets, after considering the principles of military necessity, humanity, proportionality and distinction,” the coalition statement said.

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