An Iraqi army offensive touted as the first phase of a campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State has been paused until more forces arrive to hold ground, the commander in charge said on Wednesday.

Almost three weeks into the operation, Iraqi forces have retaken just three villages from Islamic State in the Makhmour area, which is set to be a key staging ground for a future assault on Mosul, around 60 km (40 miles) further north.

The faltering start has cast renewed doubt on the capabilities of the Iraqi army, which partially collapsed when Islamic State militants took around a third of the country in 2014.

Major General Najm Abdullah al-Jubbouri, who is in charge of the offensive, said that Iraqi forces were now waiting for the arrival of federal police units and additional local tribal fighters to hold territory after it is retaken.

Read More: Reuters

Featured Image –┬áIraqi security forces ride in vehicles traveling to Mosul to fight against militants of Islamic State at an Iraqi army base in Camp Taji in Baghdad, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/AHMED SAAD