From The Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — More is riding on the battle for Mosul than the recapture of the Islamic State group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq. Also on the line is the Obama administration’s theory that the extremists can be defeated in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere without American ground troops doing the fighting.

For more than two years, the administration has stuck to its argument that the only path to a sustained victory over the Islamic State group is for locals, not Americans or other outsiders, to bear the main responsibility for the fighting and for governing after the extremists are removed.

President Barack Obama has taken a lot of political heat for that approach, which critics say has allowed IS to expand its international reach and influence.

The viability of Obama’s strategy has been widely doubted. In May 2015, after months of U.S. bombings in Iraq and while in the midst of Americans training and advising Iraqi ground troops, the Iraqis lost the city of Ramadi. Defense Secretary Ash Carter publicly said he doubted the Iraqis’ will to fight. Since then, the U.S. support role has grown and the Iraqi security forces have managed to retake key parts of western and northern Iraq, including Ramadi.

Mosul is different, not least because it is the place where Islamic State leaders in 2014 announced their intent to create an Islamic-run state after taking a large swath of Iraq and Syria in a lightning surge.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday called Mosul a new measure of Obama’s strategy.

“And I think the president would be the first to acknowledge that this is a significant test,” he said, given the size of the city and …

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