Iraq gears up for late-year push to retake Mosul from Islamic State


The U.S.-led war on Islamic State has depleted the group’s funds, leadership and foreign fighters, but the biggest battle yet is expected later this year in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his “caliphate” two years ago.

The jihadist insurgents have lost more than half the territory they seized in Iraq and nearly as much in neighboring Syria, but still manage to control their twin capitals of Mosul and Raqqa, symbols of the state they sought to build at the heart of the Middle East.

Military and humanitarian preparations are now in full swing to retake Mosul, the largest city under the ultra-hardline group’s control. American troops are establishing a logistics hub to the south, while the United Nations warns of the world’s most complex humanitarian operation this year.


One of the criticisms of the re-taking of Fallujah, earlier this summer, is that the Iraqi government made no arrangements to care for the civilian fleeing the city. NGOs struggle to provide care, but were overwhelmed by refugees, which numbered in the tens of thousands. Refugees had to sleep out in the open. Food and water supplies were insufficient. Medicines and medical care was inadequate for a healthy population, much less one which had endured a weeks long military siege. The NGOs complained that the Iraqi government spent much money and planning for the assault on Fallujah, but ignored the needs of the civilian population.

The re-taking of Mosul, which is a much larger city than Fallujah, is likely to have the same problems. And the Iraqi government seems to be hindering, rather than helping.

[quote=Reuters]Regional [UN] authorities, fearing a new wave will exacerbate demographic and security concerns, aim to settle new arrivals in camps outside of main cities.

In the best-case scenario, though, there is only enough land and funding for about 450,000 people, according to a senior U.N. official, raising the prospect of housing others in unused buildings or abandoned villages.

“If there is mass displacement, there could be shantytowns in the disputed border areas because the plan for camps doesn’t accommodate them all,” said Tom Robinson, director of Rise Foundation, which analyses Iraq’s humanitarian crisis.

Aid workers say the authorities are limiting the construction of new camps to discourage displacement. In fact, the military is urging residents to shelter in place as it advances, but that will only be feasible if fighting doesn’t lay waste to homes and infrastructure as it has before.

Jabouri, the top Iraqi commander, dismissed concerns that such a scheme jeopardises civilians’ safety, saying: “What does it mean if some areas receive mortars? That’s not the end of the world. We are in Iraq, not in Switzerland.”


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