The military offensive to free Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS control has been in the works for more than a year now. While Iraqi and coalition forces have had time to plan for it–because it was announced months ago–so has ISIS. In that time, ISIS has been preparing car bombs, deploying explosive devices on the major roads in and out of Mosul, placing concrete walls in strategic locations, and digging a 6-foot trench around the entire city, which they can fill with burning oil as needed to ward off airstrikes. As the time drew near for the offensive, the top ISIS leaders are assumed to have already left Mosul for safer havens.
So, if this operation takes weeks instead of days, or worse, months–it’s to a large degree our fault. Despite the fact that ISIS is vastly outnumbered by Iraqi and coalition forces, this fight is not going to be an easy one.
And the fact is, the official announcement of the beginning of this major military offensive on Oct. 16 already had a certain measure of hype to it. Iraq and U.S.-led coalition forces have been fighting ISIS daily at least since ISIS declared Mosul the capital of its “caliphate” in 2014. There’s not a lot new here. Except, perhaps, some perceived gain on the part of either the Obama administration as it begins to wind down, or even by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to make the party look a little “tougher” before the election.
While news reports said Iraqi and coalition forces are “closing in” on ISIS leaders, today’s report that there are “indications that leaders have left.” There has also been much speculation about whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, is still in Mosul or not. This smacks more of psychological strategy and political marketing than anything.
It’s too bad the humanitarian organizations weren’t able to make the kinds of preparations that ISIS did, whether it was from a lack of time or a lack of funds, or both. The U.N. expects some 200,000 civilians will be trying to flee Mosul in just the first few weeks of the battle. In a worst-case-scenario, it could be more like 600,000 or 700,000. The U.N. fears this is potentially one of the largest man-made humanitarian crises the world has seen in a very long time.