Iraq’s armed forces have liberated the former ISIS stronghold of Mosul after nearly a year of intense fighting.
The second largest city in Iraq had been under ISIS control since June 2014, serving as the center of their so-called “caliphate.” During that time, much of the city’s rich history was destroyed, and countless civilians were either displaced or killed. Now, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is declaring a victory for the city.
But is it a complete victory?
The State TV in Iraq says no. Plenty of ISIS fighters remain. CNN reported that there may even be a few holding out in a neighborhood near Mosul.
Both Iraqi and American forces in the region recognize the difficult work ahead. The battle has already been brutal. Some Iraqi commanders claimed this was the worst fighting they’d seen; many of them have lived in a state of war their entire lives.
Now, they fight to reclaim the remaining areas under ISIS’ control.
Col. Pat Work, the commanding officer of the Second Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division noted in an interview with the New York Times
“Iraqi security forces need to be on the top of their game, and we need to be over their shoulder helping them as they move through this transition to consolidate gains and really sink their hold in on the west side.”
On top of all this, the Iraqi people need to heal. In the final push to liberation, troops stopped to assist civilians fleeing for safety. The BBC reported that their faces were “haunted”, that children didn’t even flinch at the sound of gunfire. The cost of their liberation was high, indeed.
This did not stop celebrations, however. Iraqi police and civilians were dancing in the streets and flashing the “victory” sign.
For now, we who are far away from the fight can rejoice with them for their reprieve, and hope for further relief for the people of Mosul.