National Security

The Fight to Retake Mosul Enters Its “Final Hours”

“As a veteran of the war in Iraq, I have continued to monitor the situation there with the most vested of interests.”

The capturing of Mosul in Northern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was heartbreaking to many around the world. For close to a decade, American and coalition troops had battled al-Qaeda in Iraq for control of the city. It had been left relatively peaceful in 2011. In 2014, watching the city fall into the hands of such an evil group was hard to stomach. The Iraqi government, however, vowed to return. They promised the citizens of Iraq they would retake the city. With the help of US-led advisors and air support, security forces are on the verge of victory.

Although not fully clear at the moment, the current situation on the ground in Mosul is promising. State television in Iraq is reporting that victory is imminent and that the city is almost completely under control of the array of forces fighting since October 2016 to retake the city. Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni tribesmen and Shia militias, all backed by Western advisors and air power, engaged in daily combat as they surrounded the approaches to Mosul and began to systemically take back the city.

It has not been easy. Iraqi security forces have faced snipers, vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), human shields, and even armed drones from the ISIL fighters entrenched in and around the city. The United Nations has warned that ISIL may have as many as 20,000 civilians trapped in the city and is possibly prepared to use them as human shields. Coalition air strikes have destroyed buildings, bridges, and much of the city’s infrastructure.

Only a small portion of Western Mosul remains under Islamic State control. There could be hundreds of fighters holding out in an area as small as a square mile in Mosul’s Old City. As is often the case with urban combat, the fighting that remains could be the toughest yet. There could be many more suicide bombers and human shields as the largest urban battle since World War II enters its “final hours.”

What’s next for Mosul as the last remaining pockets of resistance are mopped up? Some serious rebuilding and a return to the city for the roughly 800,000 people who have fled their homes as a result of the fighting. The celebration happening right now in Iraq due to the work of the Iraqi security forces is both encouraging and heartwarming. As a veteran of the war in Iraq, I have continued to monitor the situation there with the most vested of interests. I lost friends there and spent over a year of my life working hard to ensure a safe and secure future for a country with enormous potential to contribute great things to the international community. The resiliency that Iraq has shown over the last few years has been inspiring and up lifting. The end of the fight for Mosul will continue to be watched closely by many American veterans of the Iraq War.

Chris Castellano

Christopher Castellano is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran. He currently serves as a firefighter in New York City.

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