National Security

US-Backed Forces Score Their Biggest Victory Over ISIS Yet

REUTERS/ Alaa Al-Marjani

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) retook the major city of Mosul Saturday after a long and bloody campaign against Islamic State forces.

Victory was declared after ISF cleared the last remaining ISIS forces from neighborhoods near Mosul’s Old City. Iraqi troops were seen dancing in the streets prior as they continued to retake the last few feet of ground from ISIS forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi traveled to Mosul on Sunday to “congratulate the armed forces and the Iraqi people” on the major victory.

The victory is the culmination of a nearly nine-month operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city, which was home to as many as 1.5 million people at its peak. ISF started its siege of the city in October, quickly retaking east Mosul by the end of January.

The city’s western half, which is separated by the Tigris river, was a much more difficult target. Several of the bridges into the western city area were destroyed or damaged. ISIS forces used western Mosul’s tight corridors and rubble for sniping positions, while waves of suicide bombers were deployed to halt the ISF advance. U.S. forces provided air support, however, the terrorist group used civilians as human shields in an effort to prevent strikes.

As a result, ISF troops opted to clear the city in a slow, methodical fashion, as ISIS forces were known to employ booby traps and ambushes in previously captured cities.

Mosul served as ISIS’s de facto capital in Iraq, second only to Raqqa, its capital in Syria. It was there Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the terror group’s reclusive leader, first announced his caliphate.

The seizure of the city is Operation Inherent Resolve’s most significant victory to date. But while it may be a key victory, the fight against ISIS is far from over.

“It’s going to continue to be hard every day,” Army Col. Pat Work of the 82nd Airborne Division told 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. ISIS will challenge this.”

The group still maintains control over Raqqa, which is currently besieged by Syrian militia groups. Additionally, the group claims affiliates in Afghanistan, Africa and the Philippines, in addition to other countries. Its online propaganda has also continued to inspire followers to engage in attacks in Western countries.

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