The Vice Closes on Mosul: What Next?

Last Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi appeared on Iraqi television to announce “a new phase in the operation” to retake Mosul. “We are coming to Nineveh,” he said, “to liberate [the] western side of Mosul” from the grasp of ISIS. This is welcome news. The fight to liberate Mosul’s western half has been brutally difficult and long, far more so than predicted. In November, Abadi boldly pronounced that ISIS would be ejected from Iraq’s second-largest city by the end of the year but, in December, battered Iraqi military units were forced to pause offensive operations and wait for reinforcements from the south.

Now, the campaign seems to be back on track. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are in firm control of the east bank of the Tigris river, which bisects Mosul, and all routes of supply or escape to the west have been cut off. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis offered new affirmations of American support for the Iraqi effort during a surprise stopover in Baghdad on Monday in which he reassured Iraqis that the U.S. is “not in Iraq to seized anybody’s oil” – a response to controversial campaign statements by President Trump – and would not abandon the fight against ISIS.

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