The Long Road To Mosul

Since the beginning of the military recapturing of Mosul, Iraq, over 200,000 residents have been displaced as a result of the constant sectarian violence. In June of 2014, the city became an IS stronghold as the terrorist organization overthrew the Iraqi military, gaining access to abandoned military stockpiles. Now, the Iraqi army along with US-backed forces is coming much closer to recapturing the city. The last phase of the battle for Mosul began three weeks ago, as Iraqi forces began pushing into the most violent corners of the city, after achieving a respectable foothold within other areas. Early on Monday, March 6th the Iraqi-U.S coalition captured a bridge that leads to the IS-held city from the south, in a maneuver to push out the group. This is the second bridge to be captured since the beginning of the phase, with the ultimate goal to rebuild these posts in order to aid the government’s fight.

In the last three weeks alone, over 45,000 residents have fled western Mosul, which has raised much concern from several aid agencies, since the camps that accommodate these people are almost full. Worsening the situation, Iraqi soldiers throughout the country have been detaining individuals and families with alleged ties to IS into detention camps without significant evidence. What goes on in these places is still unknown. What is even more disturbing is that many of the families accused of wrong-doing, are in many instances themselves victims of IS, creating the need for government protection rather than retribution. Despite these actions, presumably under good intentions, the Iraqi-US coalition has achieved considerable success in disabling attempted IS attacks, saving many lives from facing inconceivable ends.

The advancement towards the recapturing of Mosul has been met with several issues that seem to be counterproductive in the overall fight against IS. Much of the senior IS leadership is believed to have abandoned Mosul, leaving its defence to approximately 5,000 subordinates who have used several violent strategies to stop armored vehicles from passing. More recently, the extremist group has been using unrestrained savagery through the use of chemical weapons. Last week a chemical attack claimed by IS killed several people and marred, at least, seven more. Despite the foothold that the Iraqi military has established in Mosul, completely recapturing the city is unlikely to happen in the near future according to an Iraqi general. The Iraqi government has mentioned that it will be difficult to defeat IS without a lot of damage and casualties, due to the organization’s exhibited resilience.

Fortunately, Iraqi forces have moved deeper into western Mosul, recapturing several institutions that were previously claimed by IS. Included are an administration building, the Central Bank, the Mosul Museum and the provincial government headquarters. Though the defeat of IS in Iraq is not imminent, IS losses are reaching a critical point in Mosul. This gives hope to the Iraqi government as well as the citizens whose lives have been so devastated by the un-relinquishing violence they have seen over the past few years. Every post that is captured in Mosul by the Iraqi-US coalition is one step towards defeating IS in their last urban stronghold in Iraq.

Faisal Al-Baghdadi