• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 22, 2019
T.J. Coles
Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services
Thomas Knapp
A US War on Iran Would be Evil, Stupid, and Self-Damaging
Johnny Hazard
Down in Juárez
Mark Ashwill
Albright & Powell to Speak at Major International Education Conference: What Were They Thinking?
Binoy Kampmark
The Victory of Small Visions: Morrison Retains Power in Australia
Laura Flanders
Can It Happen Here?
Dean Baker
The Money in the Trump/Kushner Middle East Peace Plan
Manuel Perez-Rocha – Jen Moore
How Mining Companies Use Excessive Legal Powers to Gamble with Latin American Lives
George Ochenski
Playing Politics With Coal Plants
Ted Rall
Why Joe Biden is the Least Electable Democrat
May 21, 2019
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Locked in a Cold War Time Warp
Roger Harris
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Patrick Cockburn
Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes
Robert Hunziker
Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming
Lance Olsen
Renewable Energy: the Switch From Drill, Baby, Drill to Mine, Baby, Mine
Dean Baker
Ady Barkan, the Fed and the Liberal Funder Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
Maduro Gives Trump a Lesson in Ethics and Morality
Jan Oberg
Trump’s Iran Trap
David D’Amato
What is Anarchism?
Nicky Reid
Trump’s War In Venezuela Could Be Che’s Revenge
Elliot Sperber
Springtime in New York
May 20, 2019
Richard Greeman
The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle
Manuel García, Jr.
Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?
Robert Fisk
From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes
Tom Clifford
From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf
Chandra Muzaffar
Targeting Iran
Valerie Reynoso
The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition
Howard Lisnoff
They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade
Eileen Appelbaum
Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings
Binoy Kampmark
Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam
J.P. Linstroth
End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue
Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail