The United States and Iraq want to retake Mosul, a city in Iraq. It now is under the control of the Islamic State (ISIS).
The number of ISIS fighters in Mosul is dropping. New recruits are not arriving. An American commander said, “Their backs are against the wall.” Still, taking Mosul will not be easy. There are dangerous tunnels and trenches filled with oil and explosives.
The U.S.-backed coalition going into battle has different interests. The Iraqi army is Shiite. Most of the people in Mosul are Sunni. Iran-backed Shiite militias will also take part in the fight. It does not seem a good idea for Shiites to govern the city going forward.
The Kurds are another large ethnic group in Iran. Their forces are part of the coalition. They say they do not want to stay in Mosul.
Three great challenges are ahead. One is taking the city. Observers expect a long siege. There will be house-to-house efforts to clear out snipers. A second is the thousands of people who will leave the city during the battle. It will be a humanitarian crisis for aid groups.
The third challenge is the hardest to solve. Who will govern Mosul after it is retaken? Shiites run the Iraqi government. The government’s repression of Sunnis led to the rise of ISIS.
The U.S. says it will be the task of the residents of the city. They hope an expanded local police force will keep order. They also hope local militias will cooperate. All this can only begin to happen after Mosul is secure. That may take a while.
Police forces are not armies. If anything works, it will be political agreements. These are agreements that the Iraq government in Baghdad will sign and honor.
The perils are great. More than one million people still live in Mosul. They will need vast amounts of aid.
President Obama’s time in office is soon over. He wants ISIS out of Iraq as soon as possible. The next U.S. president will have a lot on her or his plate.
Source: The New York Times October 7, 2016