The final assault on October17 on the second largest Iraqi city of Mosul (last ISIS stronghold) heralds the beginning of the end of Islamic State in Iraq.
While Iraqi prime Minister Haider Abadi declared that “Iraq’s forces will meet soon on the grounds in Mosul to celebrate the liberation”. But US lieutenant general Stephen Townsend said that the military operation would likely last weeks or longer.
The battle started with 94000 member Iraqi led coalition troops on the ground supported by 90 jet fighters and helicopters of coalition and Iraqi air force.The forces include : 54000 Iraqi troops ,40000 Kurdish Peshmerga forces,9000 Sunni fighters,5000 minorities consisting of Christians, Turkmans and Yazidis and 14000 Paramilitary units . While Shia paramilitary forces are tasked to secure the borders.
About 5000 ISIS fighters present in the city of Mosul are engaged in putting up a stiff resistance using booby traps, suicide vehicle attacks, sniper fire and human shields to repel the onslaught. Fighters are also preparing make shift defences, stockpiling food that may last for months.
The first two days of the operation witnessed intense gunfire and suicide bombings from ISIS with troops registering their first win by securing control of significant stretch of the Erbil Mosul Road.
The battle assumes much significance as US invaded Iraq in 2003 which overthrew the Ba’ath party government of Saddam Hussein and taken over by the caretaker government in 2004.All these years from US invasion ,Iraq was reeling under sectarian violence , political turmoil and foreign influence until the formation of Nouri-AL Maliki government in 2006 after parliamentary elections.But with the withdrawal of US forces in December 2011,sectarian conflicts among Shia,Sunni and Kurds reached its peak with different groups demanding their territories that ultimately de-stabilized the country that facilitated the ISIS or Daesh to establish their hold.In 2014 ISIS captured Mosul and seized many cities in succession reaching the borders of Baghdad and in June of the same year Abu Bakr Baghdadi branded himself as a caliphate declaring Mosul as his capital.
Riding on a momentum the Iraqi forces recaptured the cities of Sinjar,Beiji,Ramadi and Fallujah in secession from ISIS and the fall of Mosul in Iraq will give the final blow to the ISIS in Iraq .The Islamic State had already suffered desertions due to intense air bombings and ground forces strikes by US coalition troops and Russia in both Iraq and Syria
This offensive will ultimately shape Iraq’s future as Kurdish Forces had already occupied nearby villages to carve out their territory in the name of Kurdistan .Such like complicated problem may keep the position in the area fluid .
This operation will be accompanied with horrific side effects of sectarian conflicts between Sunni population and advancing Shiite forces that would involve large casualties among the civilian residents ..
The exodus of 1.5 million population will further aggravate the already worsened refugee problem in the region.
By Arti Bali