Gary Johnson still looking for Mosul on map
by Nicholas Peters
For months now, a coalition formed against ISIS in Iraq has been fighting heavily against The Islamic State, pushing through territory that it carved out. Now, this coalition has pushed ISIS into their last stronghold in the country, the city of Mosul, where coalition forces lead a valiant and bloody struggle against the defending entrenched militant forces.
Mosul was seized by ISIS two years ago, in early June of 2014. Since then, ISIS has attempted to make it an example of the caliphate it wants to create. Immediately after they took the city, they imposed their law upon the people. Citizens were punished for all sorts of crimes, such as trimming their beards, or not praying when one is supposed to. Schools have remained closed in the area for over a year at this point. Yet, residents have tried and been successful in escaping. There are also a couple of very large resistance movements operating in the city.
As the coalition forces moved near the Mosul, both the militants and the civilians prepared for the coming battle. Civilians have been reportedly stocking up on supplies in their basements, and the militants have been setting up booby traps and other defenses in the city. Many civilians have fled the city; in response, the United Nations has set up a refugee camp to house them. This camp, called the Dibaga camp, now holds over 43,000 refugees, and the population is growing every day. It is believed that the number of refugees will eventually reach over a million. There is concern that as the battle continues, ISIS militants will attempt to attack the camp.
The coalition forces trying to retake Mosul consist of the Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and other allied militias, with US involvement. The coalition forces number over 100,000, with around 60,000 ISF soldiers and 40,000 Kurdish Peshmerga troops. In contrast, it is believed that there are up to 9,000 militants in the city, but numbers are believed to be much lower than that. The United States has given a lot of aid in the assault, providing air support and military training as well as oversight. In addition, about 100 US soldiers are intermixed with other forces, providing assistance in the battle. Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend leads the United States involvement in the operation.
The battle began on the 16th of October. However before the land assault was initiated, coalition forces had already heavily bombarded Mosul. Since then, coalition forces have seized the towns around the city (thirty-seven towns at this point, a number which most likely rise by the time you read this). Coalition forces are preparing for a push into the city itself, but it is believed that the Mosul is laden with many traps and dug-in forces. Coalition forces are preparing for one of the most gruelling, deadly fights against ISIS yet.
Recently, the militant forces attempted a diversion, attacking Kirkurk. The militant forces disguised themselves as refugees in order to bypass security, before they began attacking. In addition, the 1st Brigade of the Iraqi Special Forces have joined up with the Peshmerga in the fighting. This Brigade, known as the Golden Division, formerly called the Golden Brigade, is seen as the most highly skilled Iraqi force, and is made up of absolute badasses. It is believed that their inclusion in the battle will help the coalition’s side tremendously.
As of this point, there have been around nineteen casualties from coalition forces, with about thirty soldiers captured. Among the casualties is one American soldier, who died from wounds as a result of a suicide attack. The solider was a bomb disposal expert who was working with the Peshmerga forces. According to Iraqi intelligence, it is believed that militant forces have suffered about 300 casualties, but it is unclear if that estimate is correct.
This battle is significant in the campaign against ISIS. Mosul, as of right now, is the last militant controlled area in Iraq. Retaking the city would be a significant victory against them. When the militants first took Mosul, it legitimized the creation of their caliphate in their eyes. Mosul, at the same time, provides significant economic advantages to the militants, as the city is an important source of free forced labor, as well a huge source of revenue to fund the group. This source of revenue is something which ISIS is in dire need of, as it has been reported that they are in a recession, cutting the pay of the militant forces. Therefore, retaking Mosul would greatly hurt their wallets.
However, the most important reason for this operation to be successful, is that Mosul was once home to over two million people. People who now have undergone great hardship for over two years, forced to live as refugees or stay under strict caliphate law. Many have been executed as a result of these strict regulations. Retaking the city represents retaking peoples’ homes. It will be a hard fought and bloody battle, but hopefully with the combined forces of the coalition, they will be able to retake the city of Mosul and bring peace to the two million people who once called it home.