On the 6th of July, after nearly nine months of fighting, Haider-al-Abadi has announced a victory over ISIS in the city of Mosul. The victory has been long sought after, as the city was seized by ISIS in 2014 and Abu Bakr al-Baghadi had proclaimed it as their caliphate ever since.
In an official statement, the Prime Minister “congratulate[d] the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people on the achievement of the major victory.” The victory was announced after clashes in parts of the Old City. To expand, counter-terrorist forces had been fighting to reduce the control ISIS had over the area, and they were able to slowly reduce their grip until they took hold of the mosque in the Old City, effectively eliminating the rest of ISIS’ control.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the senior American commander in Iraq applauded the Iraqi forces on their victory, saying, “Make no mistake; this victory alone does not eliminate [IS] and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin capitals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a decisive blow.” Townsend remarked on how this is a very significant victory, as it leaves ISIS with only one urban centre, Raqqa, in Syria, thereby reducing their scope of influence and their support network.
However, the fighting has reeked irrevocable damage. Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 920,000 others have been displaced. The urban conflict has been compared to that of World War Two. Meanwhile, during the later stages of the campaign, civilians emerged from the city seeking help, as they were wounded, malnourished, and traumatized after escaping the siege. Unfortunately, in attempts to solve the violence, more pain and suffering has ensued. The Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Special Operation Forces, Brigadier General Flah said that “In three years of fighting Isis we have seen so much and suffered many losses, but nothing we have seen can compare to the last couple of weeks here in the old city.”
Moreover, little care was taken with regard to the lives of the civilians in the last weeks of fighting. For instance, when soldiers faced resistance, they called in air strikes, which shattered much of the city, as well as its inhabitants. This is just another factor that demonstrates the scale of the tragedy, whereby fighting was prioritized over the lives and safety of individuals.
This destruction has not only affected people’s lives, but also their homes and their communities as structures that cement a community have been lost, such as mosques and libraries. As such, this has been catastrophic for individuals and their communities as it has stripped away places of worship and learning that guided and supported them, cementing their home in the city. This illustrates the catastrophic effect on even the civilians who survive the brutal fighting.
On another note, even the current ‘peace’ held in the city could be temporary, as ISIS still has a large following and the chances of a possible wave of revenge violence could sweep over the city. Therefore, forces are still hunting for possible Islamic militants hiding in the rubble of the city as, in response to their defeat, ISIS could become more militant, threaten more civilians, and increase the risk of more fighting.
The victory in Mosul, however politically significant in regards to the war against militant terrorists, should still be considered a terrible tragedy. The suffering that has ensued to conceive this victory should be enough to strip away any glory from this ‘victory.’ This desolation is exactly what faces those who are confronted by warfare in our society. Thus, while the victory in Mosul is celebrated as a move towards more peace in Iraq, we must remember the path of suffering in its wake.
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