The heavy rains in Mosul may have given the U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq a short respite, but war won’t be deterred by a little rain. So the forward progress of liberating the once ISIS-controlled city of Mosul will begin again.
This particular rain was timed pretty badly. Iraqi coalition forces — after a long and difficult fight to rid Mosul and the surrounding area of ISIS, the radical Islamic terrorist group that “claimed” the city in June of 2014 — had hoped they could achieve a milestone today by capturing the Iron Bridge which spans the Tigris River between east and west Mosul. The U.S.-led coalition had already reclaimed eastern Mosul as part of a 2016 offensive.
The fighting today is not the same as it was in the beginning.
As Iraqi troops began the slow march to Mosul in 2016, scouring outlying towns and cities for any sign of ISIS fighters, with support from the air and the ground, they were successful in pushing ISIS out of eastern Mosul.
Now ISIS is crowded entirely into western Mosul, which is a much more densely populated part of the city. Iraqi troops no longer have the same air support as before, and the narrow streets in western Mosul are not wide enough to deploy tanks. Given that, Iraqi troops are now tasked with exterminating the ISIS vermin on the west side of the city without these aids.
“It was street-by-street. Now it’s house-by-house,” said Iraqi commando Alaa Shaker, 32, a member of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).
These soldiers are tasked with rooting out ISIS from the wreckage of homes and businesses, hospitals and schools. Soldiers exchange fire with snipers. They use blinds made from blankets and curtains to camouflage themselves when they are trying to cross the street. And when they encounter ISIS fighters — some of them close enough to see the whites of their eyes — they do exactly what they’ve been trained to do.
According to Al Jazeera, the number of innocent civilians still caught in the crossfire in Mosul is staggering — far more even than in Aleppo, Syria. As many as 600,000 civilians are still trapped in western Mosul along with several thousand remaining ISIS fighters.
That’s not all. There were some 200,000 Mosul residents who were displaced when this battle began back in October of 2016. And more than 65,000 fled their homes in just the past two weeks alone, according to the International Organization for Migration.
With U.S.-coalition-backed Iraqi forces numbering at roughly 100,000 troops, ISIS is seriously outnumbered. While the head of the CTS said he expects to have ISIS out of Mosul in the next few weeks, considering some of the tactics used by ISIS — like the practice of hiding behind civilians and using car bombs — it could take a little longer.