Mosul – Preparations to Retake Iraq’s 2nd Largest City

Map Iraq

Mosul may soon be back under Iraqi government control. All indications point to the fact that the Iraqi army is almost ready. Certainly the Peshmerga are ready to assist (and have been for quite some time). News reports also suggest that the Shia militia groups (backed by Iran) want to take part in the recapture of Mosul. The timeline (according to U.S. sources) is being set by the Iraqi government. However the Iraqi government does not seem to be in a big hurry.

There is lots to speculate about in the coming weeks. If the Peshmerga enter parts of Mosul – will they stay or withdraw once the recapture is complete. Is the Iraqi government ready to step in and re-establish local governance? How will the Shia militia be received in Mosul? Anyone care to speculate on whether they will conduct humanitarian abuses against the Sunni population? And what of the humanitarian aspect? Is the Iraqi government and are the international aid organizations prepared for the many refugees that will flow out of the city and the humanitarian crisis within the city?

With the recapture of Mosul and the waning power of the Islamic State in Iraq the Kurds are worried that their status as a principal ally of the United States will quickly change. If the Islamic State is on the ropes in Iraq then the United States (once again) will shift gears and stress the importance of a strong central government and unified Iraq encompassing all the different diverse (Shia, Sunni, and Kurd) regions of the country. The autonomy that the Kurds have attained and wish to retain may be diminished. The important support the United States currently gives the Iraqi Kurds may disappear.

For its part, the United States continues to slowly build up its force level in Iraq. We are at (depending on how you count) somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 troops on the ground in Iraq with many more military units and personnel scattered around other Middle East countries supporting the effort. A recent announcement by the Department of Defense stated that 600 plus more troops are on their way to Iraq – principally to assist in the recapture of Mosul [1]. DoD personnel continue to tell us that these troops are in an “train, advise, and assist” role. Hmmmm. With all the air strikes going on on a daily basis, SOF personnel out on raids with the Iraqi CT forces, and artillerymen manning their guns providing fire support it would seem that our military personnel are conducting combat operations. Many former U.S. bases in Iraq are being setup for long-term operations. [2]

It has been a long time since the Islamic State captured Mosul from the Iraqi army. Hopefully the taking of Mosul from ISIS will take place sooner rather than later and the Iraqi government will be ready for the aftermath.

[1] See “U.S. sending 615 new troops to Iraq”Military Times, September 29, 2016.
[2] See “U.S. plans big military expansion at Iraq’s al Asad air base”Military Times, September 28, 2016.

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