As American and Iraqi troops get ready to reclaim Mosul from Islamic State, Obama’s administration says that this is the last hurdle before they can declare victory against Sunni militancy at least in Iraq.
But, there are a few humanitarian aid groups and former officials who are worried that Obama is going to face the same problem Bush did, starting a ground campaign without having a plan for the future.
Getting back Mosul is going to be a huge symbolic loss for ISIS, but if the administration doesn’t have an arrangement for how the surrounding province and city is going to be governed later, there is nothing that will prevent the extremists from resurfacing.
Still, officials are not keen on delaying the operation further which was envisioned two years ago to try and sort out post-conflict politics in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The administration is taking a risk the future of this region which is populated by a number of religious and ethnic groups will be peacefully worked out once the militants have lost. Americans will be the brokers here but are not going to impose any plans.
There are a dozen brigades of the Iraqi Army, each including 800-1600 troops, which have gathered 40 miles south from Mosul. There are Kurdish peshmerga fighters in the east and the north who are going to help in isolating the city too.
The final assault into the city will be carried out by the counterterrorism service of Iraq. Their commandos are trained by the US Special Forces and are the most proficient and reliable fighting force in the country. The police and some of the Army units are also going to join in on this push.
Even though residents are being told to stay indoors, civilians that are fleeing the city could be in the thousands. There are aid groups which estimate a million people will be displaced during this fight. This will create a huge humanitarian task for the UN indeed.