A major offensive is being prepared to oust Islamic State (IS) from one of its strongholds in Iraq, the country’s prime minister has said.
Haider Abadi said work had begun on plans to liberate Mosul, the country’s third largest city, which has been under IS control since June last year.
The Iraqi prime minister insisted that he did not want the international coalition to supply ground forces but called for more equipment and training for his country’s military.
The UK has been involved in the bombing campaign against IS forces in Iraq and Mr Abadi said the coalition air strikes had increased “intensity and quality” in recent weeks.
He said careful plans were being made to retake Mosul from IS, also known by the Arabic name Daesh.
“We are now planning an offensive on Mosul in the coming few months. We have to prepare for it carefully because the only choice we have in Mosul, we have to win in Mosul to kick Daesh out,” he told the BBC.
“Our security forces must be ready to do this and we are working very hard to make that possible … We have already started the preparation for the liberation of Mosul.
“We are assigning certain army divisions to that task and other security forces and I think that the international coalition air campaign must be very well organised with our own troops on the ground.
“I’m pretty sure that we can liberate Mosul with the minimum of casualties and costs and we can cause a lot of damage to Daesh.”
Setting out assistance he wanted from the international coalition led by the US, he said: “We don’t want boots on the ground. We think that we have enough fighters on the ground who are prepared to fight to defend our country.
“But we need ammunition, we need armament, we need training, we need aid cover, we need other intelligence help to defeat Daesh and this has been forthcoming.
“I was a bit frustrated in my first three months of being prime minister because of the slowness of this support, but I have seen in the last four weeks, five weeks, an acceleration of this support.”