The so-called Islamic State has suffered more defeats at the hands of the coalition forces led by the United States in the campaign to re-take Mosul, Iraq, the death cult’s last major stronghold in Iraq. They are making progress, but it’s slow-going as they work to fight an enemy that doesn’t wear a uniform in a city full of terrorized civilians.
The so-called Islamic State launched an offensive on coalition forces early Saturday morning south of Mosul in the Sunni-majority town of Shirqat. Iraqi forces repelled the attack, but around 38 people were killed, with another 40 wounded. “Eight months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has been retaken by Iraqi government forces except an enclave by the western bank of the Tigris river,” Reuters reports.
From a Defense Department Release:
Iraqi security forces are continuing to methodically clear ISIS “street-by-street, house-by-house and room-by-room,” Dillon said, and remain focused on civilian safety as they clear ISIS-held areas, moving civilians out of danger as much as possible.
But ISIS has reverted to brutalizing and murdering civilians, Dillon said.
He noted that the United Nations reported June 6 that 163 bodies of murdered Iraqi men, women and children lay on the streets of the Sheer neighborhood in western Mosul after being shot and killed by ISIS snipers when they desperately tried to flee to safety.
Also this week in western Iraq, Iraqi popular mobilization forces recaptured Baaj and retook nearly 1,000 square kilometers – 386 square miles – liberating terrain and villages all the way to the Iraq-Syria border, Dillon said.
The only area on the border still not retaken from the so-called Islamic State is the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. “Our forces are awaiting directives from Prime Minister and Supreme Armed Forces Commander, Haider al-Abadi, to invade Tal Afar,” Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes the deputy chief of the forces in the region said.
Once Mosul falls, only the city of Raqqa in Syria will remain of the wide swath of territory they declared as their “caliphate” some years ago. This string of failures has the group struggling to maintain their slick social media presence which has been credited by attracting other extremists to join their ranks.
“Far from the boastful, self-aggrandizing videos of the past, the group is now urging fighters to resist and not run away from the battlefield,” and the “quality of the videos has dropped as well after some of the extremists’ most prominent propagandists and producers were killed,” according to Military.com.
Once the group falls, relegated to small insurgent cells in the region most likely, the big question will be: what comes next? Syria will still be in the grips of a civil war, and the U.S. and Russia will no longer have the so-called Islamic State to pretend is the reason for the fighting. Likely Syria’s fate will be decided on the ability of the U.S. and Russia to successfully negotiate peace.
In Iraq, however, the question is far more vague about what comes next, most specifically if Iraq as we know it survives with its borders intact. Otherwise The Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite sections of territory may seek self-governance and could spark yet another civil war in the region. Unless, of course, the problems in Iraq are addressed.
As Lukman Faily, Iraq’s Ambassador to the U.S. from 2013 to 2016, writes for Newsweek:
Decentralization has to be accelerated, corruption addressed, a population census–long overdue–must be conducted for country-wide planning. Finally, missing legislation must be voted for, including the long-awaited oil law. It won’t be easy, but these are urgent and important moves for the people and future of Iraq.
Governing Iraq after liberation will be the real acid test of Iraqi leadership, especially with the recognition that the state is being weakened from within. The liberation of Mosul must be the start of the nation’s recovery, otherwise, warlords, camouflaged by different names and fronts, will prevail.
Faily says that a “confederation” with the Kurdish people is the only viable option for peaceful coexistence. However, before the Iraqi government can address that it must focus on getting the basic functions of a government to work: rule of law, revenue and spending, and rebuilding the war-torn nation.
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