Two and a half years ago, the violent extremist group ISIL, also known as DAESH, controlled about one third of the territory of Iraq. Supremely confident after their rapid conquest of these territories, ISIL trumpeted to the world its conviction that its fighters were unstoppable. On June 10, 2014, these terrorists grabbed their greatest prize—Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and began to march on Baghdad itself. Standing in the city’s Grand Mosque back then, ISIL’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of a world-wide Islamic Caliphate, or Islamic State.
But thanks to strong efforts by the Iraqi armed forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and round-the-clock air support from the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, the tide has turned against these terrorists. For nearly 18 months, ISIL has been on the run as they have been upended by loss after loss on the battlefield. In March 2015, the city of Tikrit was liberated. That was followed by Sinjar, Ramadi, Bayji, Hit, Rutbah, Fallujah, Qayyarah, Sharqat, Qaraqosh, and now the sights are set on Mosul.
During the last two weeks of October, Iraqi army and Peshmerga fighters worked to eliminate insurgent opposition. Then, on October 31st, elite units of the Iraqi army, in co-operation with the Peshmerga, and supported by the Global Coalition, entered the outskirts of Mosul, the last city still under ISIL control.
The anti-ISIL forces are making progress, slowly retaking the city. But this promises to be a long, arduous battle. With the liberation of Mosul, ISIL will have lost well over half the territory it once held, but will likely continue to fight as it tries to hold what is left. Still, they are slowly retreating. And as they do, they sow destruction in their wake, laying land-mines and booby-trapping the city.
Nonetheless, they will inevitably be defeated, said Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brent McGurk.
“Daesh is a very brutal, horrific enemy. They are truly suicidal, with suicide bombers, booby traps, snipers, human shields,” he said. “We recognize that this will be difficult. Daesh is trying to launch spoiler attacks. They launched one in Kirkuk. The terrorists who launched that attack are either dead or have been captured.”
“We are proud to stand with the Government of Iraq, with your security forces, the people of Iraq, as you take on this enemy, really, on behalf of the entire world.”