U.N. damage assessment of Old City, West Mosul July 6, 2017. 5,536 buildings were affected by the fighting. 490 destroyed, 3,310 severely damaged, 1,736 moderate damaged (United Nations Institute for Training and Research)
The day after Prime Minister Haidar Abadi declared victory in Mosul there was still fighting going on in the city. The Golden Division’s General Sami al-Aradi said that the Iraqi forces (ISF) were clearing out the Old City looking for Islamic State members. From reports however it appeared to be more serious than that. Air strikes and helicopters were hitting the Qalahat neighborhood, and IS was firing mortars at the ISF. Gunfire and smoke could be seen coming from the district. The premier was told that the city was liberated on July 9 only to find out that IS still held parts of the city. He was likely informed that things were finished leading to his address on July 10. It appears the ISF were not correct that time as well. The different Iraqi units involved in the battle were all competing with each other to claim they were responsible for taking the city. That led them to claim five times that Mosul had been freed when it wasn’t. Still, combat will not last long, probably a few more days, but it is another example that the ISF are so prone to exaggerating their successes. The Iraqi media has not reported the situation so the public doesn’t know what’s happening.
The Islamic State was still attacking the Iraqis in the Qayara district in southeast Mosul as well. On July 5, IS seized the town of Imam al-Gharbi. It also assaulted the nearby Qayara base, which is the major transportation and logistics hub in the province. Reinforcements arrived and the Iraqis attempted to take back the village. The army claimed it re-captured most of it, but it was unclear how successful they were. The militants’ presence is a threat to the Iraqis’ rear. The fact that the insurgents have been able to hold the town for six days now with only a minimal force against an array of ISF units is not a good sign.
IS also launched an operation against the Hashd in the Hatra district in western Ninewa. They were turned back with the help of air support. This and the Imam al-Gharbi situation showed that there are still a number of dangerous IS cells active throughout the governorate that need to be eliminated.
When Mosul is finally secured the Iraqi forces will heard towards Tal Afar. There is a continuing political controversy over that town. PM Abadi reportedly told the Hashd to seize the village some time ago, but they didn’t. In turn, the head of the Badr Organization Hadi Amiri claimed the premier sent the Hashd to take west Ninewa instead. The pro-Iran Hashd like Badr have been incensed that they have not been allowed to take Tal Afar, which has a large Shiite Turkmen population, and has been an important hub in the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria. It is also not the first time that the Hashd elements aligned with Tehran have gotten into it with Abadi over military operations. As the war has progressed the PM has tried to move them to a supporting role and put the ISF to the forefront to gain support for them and his government. The Hashd are understandably resentful, which helps explain the Tal Afar recriminations.
Amnesty International and the United Nations issued critical comments about both the Iraqi forces and the Islamic State over their conduct in the Mosul campaign. Amnesty said that the Iraqi forces and Coalition violated international law with indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilians. The ISF for example fired huge amounts of unguided rockets, mortars and artillery into Mosul, while the Iraqis and Coalition endangered civilians with their air strikes. The group also said that IS continuously committed crimes against the population by using them as human shields and executing them. The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights made similar statements about the Islamic State, while also stating that it had reports of collective punishment and forced evictions of IS families, and abuses against IS members and suspects by the ISF. All of these have been continuously reported in the press. From the start of the battle for example, IS was herding people from villages outside of Mosul to use them as cover for their retreat, while carrying out mass killings. The Jadida bombing which left over 100 dead inside Mosul, publicized the huge number of civilians that were being killed by Coalition air power. The Iraqi police were called out several times for causing a large number of casualties with their shelling as well. In an urban battle it is hard to avoid killing and wounding civilians. For IS there is no excuse as they are a brutal terrorist organization. The Iraqis and Coalition however, could have taken much greater care, especially when they consistently said they were trying to spare the population.
West Mosul is turning out to be a huge graveyard. Civil Defense teams are slowly removing the rubble, and are uncovering bodies every day. The forensic office of the Ninewa Health Department said that 73 bodies were uncovered in one area and 39 in another. There are probably several hundred to possibly far more that will be discovered in the coming weeks and days. Hopefully they will be recorded so that a fuller picture of the cost of the battle will be made.
Another issue that politicians are beginning to discuss is post-IS Ninewa. MP Karim al-Nouri from Badr called for a government policy to deal with Sunnis in liberated areas to ensure that IS doesn’t rise again. MP Intisar al-Jabouri who is from the province added that the Islamic State’s ideology had to be countered. Reconciliation, prevention, and justice are important issues for all of Iraq. Children that grew up under IS occupation for instance, need to be purged of any dangerous ideas they might have learned. IS families should not be punished for what a family member did. Baghdad has nothing to offer however. That is leaving whatever local group has power and weapons on the ground to do whatever they want such as threatening and kicking out relatives of IS elements. With elections due next year, it is unlikely that anything substantive will come from the government in the foreseeable future. Given the dysfunction in Iraqi politics it’s questionable if these will ever be dealt with in a meaningful way.
The last issue is reconstruction, which will also be a huge dilemma. A Ninewa councilman told the press that 70% of west Mosul and 50% of the east were destroyed in the fighting. According to Civil Defense units that clear areas of rubble 65% of the buildings in the Old City were damaged. The provincial government has a 100-day program underway to restore water, electricity, and repair roads. This has largely been successful in east Mosul. When it comes to larger projects however, Baghdad is needed to provide the plans and funding. Committees are going to be formed with the United Nations to prepare for the reconstruction. There are two expected conferences as well that will include the U.S., IMF and World Bank to attract investment, acquire loans, and lobby for donations. The Atlantic had an article on how difficult it will be to get foreign companies involved in this process. The Iraqis have not formulated any specific plans that will ensure a return on investments, and the business environment in the country is extremely hard with corruption, waste, and nepotism. Iraqi banks also rarely give out loans to entrepreneurs, and the private sector has never been developed. Ninewa will need over $1 billion for rebuilding, but it is already looking like that will be a huge dilemma even before it starts.
ACTED, “Mosul emergency response update: final stages of military offensive and protracted humanitarian needs,” 7/11/17
BBC, “Mosul: Clashes continue as troops target IS ‘holdouts,’” 7/11/17
Bulos, Nabih, “Iraqi forces and rescue crews in Mosul look to save civilians and pull bodies from the rubble,” Los Angeles Times, 7/11/17
Gamal-Gabriel, Tony, “Mosul’s once-thriving Old City now a grey wasteland,” Agence France Presse, 7/11/17
Gebelly, Maya with Gamal-Gabriel, Tony, “IS chief reported dead after jihadists lose Mosul,” Agence France Presse, 7/11/17
George, Susannah, “Iraqi declares ‘total victory’ over Islamic State in Mosul,” Associated Press, 7/11/17
Al Ghad Press, "Al Abbas Brigade suffered losses in lives and equipment south of Mosul," 7/11/17
- “Salahaddin’s Operations begins revenge of the martyrs in Qayara,” 7/11/17
Hassan, Ghazwan, “Islamic State tightens grip on village near Mosul after defeat,” Reuters, 7/11/17
International Committee of the Red Cross, “Scarred for life: War in Mosul draws to a brutal end,” 7/11/17
Iraq News Network, “Ninewa Council: 80% of Mosul destroyed,” 7/11/17
Iraq Newspaper, “Iraqi Forces Advance Towards Railroad West Of Qayara Base,” 7/11/17
- “Iraqi Newspaper Reporter In Mosul: Pentagon Announces Celebration of Victory over Daash, We Bombed Them In Mosul And Destroyed 28 Sites,” 7/11/17
Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul July 11, 2017,” 7/11/17
Janssen, Bram, “Sporadic clashes in Iraq’s Mosul after victory declaration,” Associated Press, 7/11/17
Kalin, Stephen, “Amnesty says Iraq and allies violated international law in Mosul battle,” Reuters, 7/11/17
Kittelson, Shelly, “Distrust, dehydration rampant amid final Mosul battles,” Al Monitor, 7/10/17
Lamothe, Dan, Gibbons-Neff, Thomas, Karklis, Laris and Meko, Tim, “Battle of Mosul: How Iraqi forces defeated the Islamic State,” Washington Post, 7/10/17
Al Mada, “False field data postponed the declaration of liberation of Mosul 3 times,” 7/11/17
- “The liberation of Mosul and the disappearance of al-Baghdadi explodes into a bloody conflict in the foothills of Tal Afar,” 7/11/17
New Sabah, “Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces directs the movement of military units towards Tal Afar, Hawija and western Anbar,” 7/11/17
Al Noor News, “Cashes and shelling in the Old City on the first day of the declaration of liberation,” 7/11/17
Al Rafidain, “Forensic Medicine In Ninewa: Every Day Dozens Of New Bodies Are Found As Neighborhoods Are Cleared,” 7/11/17
Rukmini, Callimachi, “I Saw What ISIS Left Behind in Mosul,” New York Times, 7/11/17
Rudaw, “Iraqi forces begin an offensive to restore Imam al-Gharbi south of Mosul,” 7/11/17
Al Sumaria, “Abadi reviews the plan to stabilize liberated Mosul,” 7/11/17
Watling, Jack, “How Can Iraq Rebuild?” The Atlantic, 7/11/17