Mosul, home to more than one million civilians, is the second largest city in Iraq. It has been under ISIS control since June 2014.
This weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of a military attempt to retake the city.
“This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. “The US and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters, and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”
Mosul fell to ISIS in 2014 when the terrorist group swarmed across northern and western Iraq. After taking the city, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of an Islamic caliphate that had at one point encompassed nearly one third of Syria and Iraq.
ISIS has suffered serious losses since then, and the group’s power has shrunk to the city of Mosul and a few surrounding towns.
The push to retake the city will be the largest and most complex military operation in Iraq since US troops left in 2011. If successful, it will be the Islamic State’s biggest defeat. Officials are already calling it a “historic operation.”
Iraqi forces began moving in to surround Mosul in July. According to Brig. General Haider Fadhil, more than 25,000 troops will take part in the operation.
The US-led coalition will carry out airstrikes and offer artillery fire.
Conflict in Iraq has already forced more than 3 million civilians from their homes. The UN estimates this battle will displace up to 1 million people, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
Other problems include the Turkish troops stationed northeast of Mosul who were ordered by Baghdad to leave. Ankara has ignored this demand, and Fadhil worries what those troops may do during the imminent attack on Mosul.
Iran has warned that Shia Army units should not be allowed into the city, since they have a record of extreme bloodshed. They claim the result will be a bloodbatha and slaughter of innocents.
Editor’s note: So far the Kurdish groups have kept on schedule, as expected (the Kurds are bad asses…). Our sources tell us the Iraqi forces have already backed off from their objective, as expected (we’ve seen this before from the Iraqi military). This is by no means a done deal.
The latest, the forces have taken wide swaths and about 20 villages, but the consensus is that main ISIS forces have pulled back in preperataion and the main engagement is yet to come. (Its not like they didn’t know it was coming…).
Update: It appears that the Kurds and Shia units (i.e. the best fighters) will not be part of the main attack on Mosul. This means less experienced force will be expected to fight an entrenched ISIS. Sources say the ISIS forces have well prepared defenses, including an extensive network of tunnels.
I’m predicting now that the assault will fail. Reinforcements or a change of heart on the use of the Kurds will be necessary to retake Mosul.