File - In this Wednesday, May 27, 2015 photo, U.S. soldiers, left, participate in a training mission with Iraqi army soldiers outside Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
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It will take many more months to prepare Iraq's still-struggling military for a long-anticipated assault on Daesh's (ISIS) biggest stronghold in the country, the city of Mosul, U.S. and Iraqi officials say – and it may not even be possible to retake it this year, despite repeated vows by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.In the following months, tens of thousands more Iraqi troops were identified as "ghost soldiers" – nonexistent troops whose pay was pocketed by commanders.Coalition and Iraqi officials estimate eight to 12 brigades, or an estimated 24,000 to 36,000 troops, will be needed for the operation to capture Mosul.So far, 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi troops have been deployed at Makhmour base, the likely staging ground for a Mosul assault, located 67 kilometers southeast of the city.The attacks likely aim at delaying deployment of troops to Makhmour or along the Euphrates River valley for the Mosul assault by forcing the military to move its best forces to protect the capital, said Patrick Martin, an Iraq analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
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