“They don’t have a social life,” an aide to an Iraqi general told a NYT reporter visiting Mosul, where a fight is raging between Iraqi and ISIS forces. “They just come here to fight and die.”
The aide was monitoring the fight through a pair of binoculars and reporting on new developments through an iPad. Many of the militants defending the ISIS stronghold are not Iraqi, but foreign fighters, he told NYT military correspondent Michael Gordon. They came to Iraq to fight with ISIS and are concerned with little else.
The aide noted many of the dead recovered from the fight by Iraqi Security Forces apparently hadn’t bathed in weeks.
The commander of Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces echoed in March the aide’s assessment of the foreign fighters with ISIS. “This is their last stand,” Lt. Gen. Abdelghani al-Assadi told The Wall Street Journal. “Ninety-nine percent of them came to die.”
ISIS’s maniacally dedicated foreign fighters have wreaked havoc in the battle for Mosul, which is now entering its seventh month. ISIS deploys suicide bombs, commercial drones, roadblocks, and deadly snipers to turn every Iraqi advance into a bloody slog.
In some cases the foreign fighters have even reportedly begun executing Iraqi fighters attempting to flee the city. “It works very well for us because it saves our partner force the trouble of fighting them,” U.S. Army Col. John Dorrian told TheWSJ regarding the reports.
To make matters worse, hundreds of thousands of civilians remain inside ISIS held Mosul. The densely populated civilian areas render many military tools useless in the fight, and the latest phase of the battle has been particularly trying. Western mosul has much narrower streets than its eastern counterpart, making armored vehicles unusable in some areas. These armored vehicles are the Iraqi Security Force’s main line of defense against ISIS suicide bombs and snipers.
The terrorist group also frequently uses civilians as human shields. The U.S. military also believes the group sometimes baits aircraft into striking civilians in order to cause public relations debacles. “If there were no civilians, we’d just burn it all,” an Iraqi counter-terrorism commander told The Washington Post in November. He said ISIS floods the streets with civilians when his forces enter, stopping the deployment of heavy munitions. “I couldn’t bomb with artillery or tanks, or heavy weapons. I said, ‘We can’t do anything,” he lamented.
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