Iraq's prime minister struck an upbeat tone Thursday, saying the operation to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters was moving ahead faster than anticipated.
"The forces are pushing toward the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed in our campaign plane," Haider al-Abadi said via a video-link transmission to an international meeting about Iraq's second-largest city taking place in Paris.
The assault was forecast to take weeks, if not months, to complete. Al-Abadi did not address that timing in his comments to the gathering hosted by French President Francois Hollande.
His remarks came as Kurdish peshmerga forces said they launched a large-scale operation to the east and north of Mosul to try to clear members of the Islamic State from villages in Ninewa province, about 12 miles from Mosul.
The peshmerga are part of a broad Iraqi military coalition descending on Mosul that includes Iraqi soldiers and special forces, American advisers, Sunni Arab fighters, militia units comprised of Christian and Yazidi minorities and Shia paramilitaries. Air cover is being provided by U.S.-led coalition warplanes.