Iraqi troops and civilians died in untold numbers from lack of timely medical care after the first phase of the Battle for Mosul against the Islamic State, NPR reports.
The Iraqi government, the United Nations, and other charity organizations did not anticipate the number of wounded, which led to a severe deficit in field hospitals. The massive number of civilians who remain inside the city exacerbated the problem due to ISIS’s brutal strategies.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) top official in Iraq said urban combat typically inflicts 20 percent of those involved with bullet or fracture wounds that require quick stabilization. The Mosul battle has exceeded that expectation because of ISIS’s brutal tactics, and its use of civilians as human shields.
When the first phase of the Mosul operation began in October 2016, there were nearly 1.5 million civilians inside the city. ISIS often uses the civilians to form a human shield ring around their positions, and indiscriminately explodes suicide bombs near Iraqi government forces. “It wasn’t anticipated that people would be stranded, caught inside East Mosul,” a WHO representative told NPR.
The Iraqi Security Forces took nearly 3 months to retake just half of the city, draining critical resources and killing thousands. Private estimates say the Iraqi forces are experiencing a nearly 30 percent casualty rate, despite extensive U.S. assistance. While the WHO and other organizations appear to have learned from their experience in east Mosul, the renewed push on the western half of the city may be even bloodier.
The streets of western Mosul are much narrower than the eastern half of the city, rendering use of Iraqi armored humvees useless in some neighborhoods. These humvees are critical lines of defense against ISIS suicide vehicles, which the group is cranking out at an industrial scale. By the groups own admission it used nearly 900 suicide car bombs in 2016 alone.
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