“There will be advances and there will be setbacks,” he said at a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
“But I am confident that just as ISIL has been defeated in communities across Iraq, ISIL will be defeated in Mosul as well, and that will be another step towards their ultimate destruction,” he added, referring to another name for Daesh.
The group has been in control of Mosul since June 2014 when Iraqi forces melted away in the face of Daesh’s lightning advance.
Iraqi forces began the long-anticipated offensive to recapture the city early Monday.
Approximately 1 million civilians remain in the city, and in addition to defeating Daesh militarily the focus “is on the safety and the humanitarian aid for civilians who are escaping the fight”, Obama said.
“That will be a top priority for both our governments,” he said.
The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, its first urban stronghold, could be a major turning point in the fight against the extremist group. The city has long been featured prominently in its propaganda as Daesh seeks to portray itself as a state.
If Mosul were to fall, then it would be a significant blow to the group, leaving it with only one major population center under its control: Raqqah in northern Syria.
“This will be I think a key milestone in what I committed to doing when ISIL first emerged, which was we were going to roll them back and we are going to ultimately drive them out of population centers,” Obama said. “And we will destroy them and defeat them so that they are not in a position to carry out terrorist attacks against our peoples or our friends and allies, or against innocent people inside of Iraq and Syria,” he added.