WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday of a tough battle ahead as Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition advance on Mosul to wrest the city from the militant Islamic State group.
Obama said the push to liberate the northern city, the jihadistsâ€™ last stronghold in Iraq, now in its second day, was a â€œmajor step forward.â€ â€œI am confident that ISIL will be defeated in Mosul and that will be another step toward their ultimate destruction,â€ he told a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, using an acronym for the jihadist group. But the US leader warned of a challenging road ahead.
â€œMosul will be a difficult fight. There will be advances and there will be setbacks,â€ Obama said.
â€œPerhaps one million civilians are still living there,â€ Obama added. â€œIn addition to rooting out ISIL, our focus is on the safety and humanitarian aid for civilians escaping the fight. That will be a top priority for both our governments.â€