FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Recapture of Mosul

Photo by DVIDSHUB | CC BY 2.0


Iraq
 is declaring victory over Isis in Mosul as the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, wearing black military uniform, arrived in the city to congratulate his soldiers at the end of an epic nine-month long battle.

Elite Iraqi government forces raised the Iraqi flag on the banks of the Tigris River this morning, though Isis snipers are still shooting from the last buildings they hold in the Old City.

The magnitude of the victory won by the Iraqi government and its armed forces, three years after they suffered a catastrophic defeat in Mosul, is not in doubt.

A few thousand lightly equipped Isis fighters astonished the world by routing in four days an Iraqi garrison of at least 20,000 men equipped with tanks and helicopters. The recapture of Mosul now is revenge for the earlier humiliation.

The devastation in the city is huge: the closer one gets to the fighting in the centre, the greater the signs of destruction from airstrikes. Wherever Isis made a stand, Iraqi forces called in the US-led coalition to use its massive firepower to turn whole blocks into heaps of rubble and smashed masonry.

A volunteer medical worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said that on bad days  “some 200 to 300 people with injuries had turned at my medical centre. I hear stories of many families dying, trapped in basements where they had been sheltering from the bombs.”

Isis gunmen have slaughtered civilians trying to escape from areas they held.

 

Jasim, 33, a driver living behind Isis lines in the Old City, died when  an Isis sniper shot him in the back as he tried to cross the Tigris over a half-destroyed bridge.

Two months ago, he was in touch with The Independent by phone after he had been wounded in the leg by a coalition drone attack.

“After a while, I felt a severe pain on my leg, and after few moments I realised I was injured,” he said. “I partly walked and partly crawled to a small temporary clinic nearby, but they could not treat my leg properly.”

Abdulkareem, 43, a construction worker and resident of the al-Maydan district, where Isis is making its last stand, spoke to The Independent last week about the dangers facing him and his family.

“We can hear the roar of the bombing and the mortar fire,” he said. “But we don’t know whether it is the Iraqi army, the coalition airstrikes or Daesh [Isis].”

A few days later, an airstrike hit his  house  and friends say that he was badly injured,

Away from the present battle zone in Mosul, many districts are deserted and only passable because bulldozers have cut a path through the debris.

In a side street in the al-Thawra district, where some buildings were destroyed, a crowd of people, mostly women in black robes which covered their faces as well their bodies,  were this week-end frantically trying to obtain  food baskets donated by an Iraqi charity.

“These women are from Daesh families, so I don’t have much sympathy for them,” said Saad Amr, a volunteer worker from Mosul who had once been jailed by Isis for six months in 2014.

“I suffered every torture aside from rape,” he recalls, adding that men from Daesh families had been taken to Baghdad for investigation, but evidence of their crimes is difficult to obtain so most would be freed.The prospect made him edgy.

Asked about popular attitudes in Mosul towards Isis, Saad, who works  part time for an Iraqi radio station, says that three years ago in June 2014, when Isis captured Mosul “some 85 per cent of people supported them because the Iraqi government forces had mistreated us so badly. The figure later fell to 50 per cent because of Isis atrocities and is now about 15 per cent.”

Ahmed, Saad’s brother who lives in East Mosul, said later that he was nervous because so many former Isis militants were walking about the city after shaving off their beards.

In a medical facility in a converted shop in  al-Thawra, a wounded Isis fighter who had been hit in the face by shrapnel from a  mortar round, was lying in a bed attached to a drip feed.

“You cannot talk to him because he is still under investigation,” warmed a uniformed guard. A further 30 Isis suspects were being held in a mosque nearby thugh these are more likely to have been administrative staff rather than fighters.

Saad said that the behaviour of Iraqi combat troops, particularly the Counter-Terrorism Service, also known as the Golden Division, towards civilians was excellent and “the soldiers often give their rations to hungry people.” He was more dubious about how incoming Iraqi army troops and police would act towards local people.

The Iraqi government victory is very real , but it also has its limitations. The weakness of the Iraqi forces is that they depend on three elite units, notably the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), the Emergency Response Division and the Federal Police, backed up by the devastating air power of the US-led coalition.

The CTS combat units, perhaps less than 3,000 men, have been the cutting edge of the military offensive in Mosul and have suffered some 40 per cent casualties.

This shortage of effective military units may make it difficult for Baghdad to consolidate its victory. This became clear during our five hour drive to Mosul from the Kurdish capital of Erbil 60 miles away to the east, as we tried we tried to find a road where the innumerable checkpoints would let us get through.

Driving across the Nineveh Plan east of Mosul, a land of ruined and abandoned towns and villages, most of the checkpoints are manned by Hashd al-Shaabi, the Shia group much feared by the Sunni Arabs of Mosul.

We crossed the Tigris by a pontoon bridge near Hamam al-Alil. Here there are camps for some 100,000 displaced people from Mosul. A few days earlier some 160 Isis fighters had staged a surprise counter-attack in Qayara district, killing soldiers and police along with two Iraqi journalists.

Travelling north towards Mosul, the police posts would not at first permit us to pass, so we circled round the city to the west travelling on a winding track through rocky scrubland where there were a few impoverished hamlets in which the houses were little more than huts and from which their inhabitants had fled.

For half a dozen miles not far from Mosul, there were no Iraqi security forces and we became nervous that US planes or drones might mistake our two vehicles for an Isis suicide bombing mission and attack us. We turned back to the main road and finally persuaded a police post to let us to use the road running past  Mosul airport and a row of bombed out factories.

Our journey showed that the Iraqi government have the historic nine month struggle for Mosul – the battle of Stalingrad was only five-and-a-half months long – but the war is not quite over. Isis may be able to regroup as it did before in 2007-11. Out in the vast desolate deserts of western Iraq and eastern Syria, its fighters can still hide and plan their revenge.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

July 23, 2018
Pam Martens
Koch Industries Is Staffing Up with Voter Data Scientists to Tip the November Election to the Extreme Right
Binoy Kampmark
Ecuador’s Agenda: Squeezing and Surrendering Assange
Vijay Prashad
America’s Reporter: the Hersh Method
Colin Jenkins
Exposing the American Okie-Doke
Patrick Cockburn
What Boris Johnson Doesn’t Know About British History
Jack Random
Asylum Seekers in the 21st Century
Howard Lisnoff
How We Got Sold on Endless Wars
Ed Meek
Trump Has Taught Us Some Valuable Lessons About Executive Power
Myles Hoenig
Trump, the Mr. Magoo of American Diplomacy
Winslow Myers
The Mind Reels
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail