After three years of being held hostage as ISIS’s largest city conquest, Mosul has finally been liberated. The Iraqi forces rejoiced as they planted their national flag after nine months of brutal on-ground fighting and airstrikes.
In July 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first and only public appearance as ISIS’s leader at the city’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri and announced the creation of a “caliphate.” Meanwhile, almost three years later, just ahead of the Iraqi advance, ISIS blew up the mosque. The move was seen as a “formal declaration of defeat.”
In present-day, the jubilant Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi travelled to Mosul to congratulate the soldiers and declared that “From here, from the heart of the liberated and free Mosul, by the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all the provinces, we declare the great victory for all of Iraq and Iraqis. This is a great celebration that crowned the victories of the fighters and the Iraqis over the last three years.”
However, in the shadow of all the celebration lay the debris of a formerly prosperous city, as bombs and airstrikes from ISIS and the U.S-led coalition have marred much of Mosul. Thus, while the city may have been liberated, the government will now need to completely rebuild the city and rehabilitate the civilians. As the city lies in rubble, the government’s first duty would be to reconstruct hospitals, municipal buildings, housing, and re-create water, electricity, and sewage networks.
In addition, the ongoing conflict resulted in thousands of casualties and the displacement of millions. The Iraqi forces are still in the process of retrieving the civilians and the dead bodies from under the wreckage. As the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq rightly claims, “The fighting may be over, but the humanitarian crisis is not.” As well, tens of thousands of civilians now reside in refugee camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) or have had to flee the country without any source of livelihood. The city housed almost two million people, however, the war caused almost three-quarter of a million people to be displaced, and these civilians are in need of shelter, food, healthcare, water, sanitation, and emergency kits. It is important to consider that these people have also seen their family and friends be killed in front of them and have barely survived themselves.
Furthermore, some American commanders have claimed that “the fight for Mosul was some of the toughest urban warfare since World War II.” The Iraqi government has not declared officially how many of its troops have died or were injured in the battle, but the number lies near a thousand.
Moreover, the recapture of Mosul will not mark the end of the threat posed by ISIS, which still remains to be a potent force on Iraqi land. In addition, Syrian fighters that are backed by American firepower will continue their armed campaign to liberate Raqqa. Needless to say, the destruction and loss of life will be unabated for now.