U.S. taking role in Mosul retake, humanitarian crises expected

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The upcoming military campaign to wrest control of the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group could affect as many as 1.5 million civilians, making it one of the world's largest humanitarian crises, a United Nations official said Wednesday.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said that military operations to retake areas held by the Islamic State group have already forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

"The impact of the Mosul military campaign on civilians will be devastating," Grande said in statement from Iraq. "Mass casualties among civilians are likely and families trying to flee are expected to be at extreme."

The United Nations is seeking $284 million ahead of the expected operation, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

U.N. officials have said they believe the operation to take Mosul will begin in the fall and that they need at least two to three months to scale up humanitarian efforts in order to be prepared for the large numbers of displaced civilians.

Grande's remarks come as defense and foreign ministers meet in Washington to discuss the fight against the Islamic State group and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a separate meeting, in an attempt to raise $2 billion in humanitarian aid and for reconstruction and development assistance in Iraq.

The U.S. has announced that it will send 560 additional troops to Iraq to transform a newly retaken air base into a staging hub for the long-awaited battle to recapture Mosul from Islamic State militants. Troops are expected to arrive in the coming days and weeks.

The extremist group captured Mosul in the summer of 2014. It is the second largest city in Iraq and has been used as the group's main headquarters since.