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. […]