US Led Iraqi-Kurdish Coalition Launches Offensive Campaign to Reclaim Mosul from ISIL

Meagan Cardno - 4A Nanotechnology
Posted on: October 22, 2016

Back in June 2014, Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This marked one of the largest and most devastating feats accomplished by the terrorist organization; it threatened the entire collapse of the Iraqi state, prompting the re-entry of U.S. military activity in Iraq since their withdrawal in 2011. Following this attack, ISIL’s militaristic control of the country grew much more before efforts against them drew success, reaching a peak claim of the country’s territory in December of 2014.

However, since then, militaristic efforts of Iraqi and Kurdish coalition forces led by the U.S. military have made great progress— by the following April, ISIL had lost nearly 30% of the territory they had once boasted. Now, the time has come for the coalition to attempt to take back the city that was lost over two years ago. The operation is particularly crucial, as Mosul represents the last major ISIL stronghold in Iraq.

The assault, which began on October 16, is expected to become the largest battle fought in Iraq since the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. While reportedly the offensive is advancing far more quickly than originally planned, the attack is not without its complications and risks. The Iraqi and Kurdish militants are still several kilometres away from Mosul itself, and all approaches to the city are well guarded by many forms of dangerous weapons— roadside bombs, suicide vehicle bombs, snipers, and mines all pave the way to recapturing the city.

In addition, following the initial stages of the assault on Mosul, ISIL has also carried out several sudden, organized attacks on the nearby city of Kirkuk. Multiple civilians, including workers from a nearby power plant and TV reporters, were killed in the process. ISIL has also set fire to numerous factories in the vicinity, including a sulphur plant, resulting in the creation of large volumes of toxic fumes, which have caused breathing problems in over 1000 people, killing at least two civilians so far.

The complications only get worse inside of the city. While the reported number of ISIL fighters vary, it is expected to be only between 3000 to 10, 000— a very small number of armed soldiers to hold a city once home to over 2.5 million residents. Hundreds of families from neighbouring establishments have been forced out of their homes and taken to Mosul, an act that makes many fear the use of these civilians as human shields.

It is difficult to predict how long the siege will last, be it weeks or months until some sort of resolution is made. However, the complications will continue upon the liberation of the city, as over half a million fleeing Iraqi civilians will probably require shelter. Humanitarian efforts are likely going to be required to help sustain these individuals, as they are expected to overwhelm existing refugee camps.