The Iraqi army launched an offensive Thursday to retake Nineveh province but gave no hint it was poised for a long-awaited attempt to retake control of the province’s largest city, Mosul, from Islamic State.

Iraqi troops “liberated” four villages in Nineveh from the extremist group’s control, a military spokesman, Brig. Yahya Rasool, told state television, which heralded the army campaign with patriotic music videos and stock footage of Iraqi troops on the front lines.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi praised the offensive as “swift and decisive,” and declared Islamic State forces “in retreat.” […]