After two days of deadly bombings this week, the government said Friday it would dispatch several thousand more police and soldiers to Mosul, Iraq's major northern city, to crush the al-Qaida stronghold there.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the government counteroffensive would be "decisive," although he gave no details on troop strength or when the addition forces would arrive.
"Today, our troops started moving toward Mosul ... and the fight there will be decisive," al-Maliki said during a speech in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
Al-Qaida and its supporters would find themselves without a major base of operations if ousted from Mosul, which occupies transport crossroads between Baghdad, Syria, Turkey and Iran. But a drawn-out fight also could serve to rally insurgents and expose potential security weaknesses where US troops are thin and poorly equipped Iraqi forces must assume a front-line role.