BAGHDAD – Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi says Islamic State militants lack the courage to put up long-term resistance to his government's campaign to retake Mosul, despite unleashing hundreds of car bombs that have killed and maimed Iraqi soldiers and civilians. He tells The Associated Press in an interview Monday that Mosul is completely encircled and that the speed with which the area has been secured surpassed his expectations.
WHO HE IS
Al-Abadi, born in 1952, is a veteran Shiite politician who has spent many years in exile in Britain before he returned home in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. A Manchester-trained engineer and son of a Baghdad doctor, he is a longtime member of the Dawa party. He was a party stalwart in the 11 years he was in Iraq before becoming prime minister in August 2014. On taking office, he promised unity and to rid Iraq of the Islamic State group, which had captured about a third of the country two months before he took the helm.
WHAT HE SAID
On the ongoing campaign to liberate Mosul:
"The success of liberating a huge area indicates that Daesh does not have the gut now or the motivation to fight as they were doing before," he added, using the Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
On a September statement by President-elect Donald Trump that he would "take the oil" from Iraq, claiming that the Iranians would step in otherwise:
"I am not going to judge the man by his election statements. I am going to judge him by what he does later."
On the future of U.S.-Iraqi relations:
"I think it is in the interest of the United States and Iraq to keep this relationship. In my telephone call with President-elect Trump, he assured me that the U.S. support will not only continue, but it is going to be increased."
On his efforts to date to bring about reconciliation in Iraq:
"We have moved quite far in terms of reaching out to our own population."
On charges that state-sanctioned militias have been committing human rights abuses in Sunni areas:
"Any time I hear there is a violation or abuse, I immediately start an investigation into it. My role is not to cover up for the crimes of others."