Iraq is preparing to recapture Mosul after its Sunday victory over Islamic State in Fallujah.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was ecstatic Sunday as he traveled to Fallujah to officially declare complete victory over ISIS. The seizure of Fallujah represents the second major city retaken by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) since the taking of Ramadi in December. In response to the victory, al-Abadi encouraged the Iraqi people to celebrate.
“I call on all Iraqis, wherever they are, to get out and celebrate,” al-Abadi told state television with an Iraqi flag over his shoulders.
Al-Abadi is not resting on his laurels though, as he also noted “we will raise the Iraqi flag in Mosul soon.”
Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and acts as the ISIS de facto capital in Iraq. ISF and its allies, backed by U.S. air strikes, have been preparing a siege of the city for months. U.S. forces have been actively training ISF for what they believe will be a very tough fight.
“We’re very focused on training the units that are going to … isolate and shape and clear Mosul,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, to the Army Times in April. “We’re making progress, but the closer we get to Mosul, the harder it’s going to be. The enemy’s going to fight much, much harder the closer we get.”
The Iraqi government estimates that around 1,800 ISIS fighters were killed in the month-long operation to retake Fallujah. Despite the victory, the United Nations estimated as many as 83,000 refugees who fled the city at the behest of the government are living in squalor.
Even with momentum on ISF’s side, the operation to take back Mosul will be a remarkably difficult experience. Journalists, analysts and officials are all in agreement that taking on the city that is home to half a million people will be a longer operation. James Snoddy, a former U.S. Army platoon leader who served in Mosul during the occupation, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine in December the siege could take as many as 10 years. While Snoddy’s estimate is certainly high, Volesky noted in May the Mosul fight is going to be anything but easy.
“They’ve been in Mosul for two years. And, you know, as you know, Mosul is about three times larger than Ramadi,” Volesky said during a May press briefing. “And so, you know, as we talk — talk to them, we just need to be prepared to ensure we’re going the right enabling and we’ve got the right conditions up.”
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