The month-old operation to rid the Iraqi city of Mosul of the Islamic State terrorist group continues, with Iraqi officers confirming nearly 1,000 jihadi deaths since it began. The tedious street-by-street assault has left a sea of bodies in its wake, however, and civilians demanding the government do something to clear the streets of blood.
Reuters cites Iraqi Major General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi as confirming the “nearly 1,000″ figure of eliminated ISIS jihadis, adding that an estimated 74,000 civilians have fled Mosul and another million are believed to be living in the city, the nation’s second-largest.
Iraqi Golden Special Forces Commander Maan Zeid Ibrahim detailed the advances on the Mosul front Monday, in a manner that highlighted the tedious nature of uprooting the terrorist group: “Today as we have completed Khazra apartments, and other districts of Karkukli, Arbajyah, and Bakir, God willing tomorrow we will head towards other districts following clearing more than 20 districts on the left side.” The troops are inspecting each apartment in every building for hidden jihadis and only leaving when each building is fully secured. The mission has required 100,000 fighters, a combination of Iraqi government troops, Shiite militia fights, and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
“We are trying to advance cautiously to minimize casualties, and we are convinced that we will eventually be asked to liberate the western sector of the city when we are done here,” Iraqi Brigadier General Haider Fadhil told the Associated Press (AP). The AP notes that the Iraqi military does not release numbers for its own casualties, so it is impossible to compare the 1,000 dead jihadi estimate to how many troops the government has sacrificed to eliminate them.
“Dead bodies of ISIS militants lying on the ground prove the group has been defeated,” Rudaw notes, in a caption to a video showing how civilians are coping with the evidence.
American Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter issued a statement Monday expressing confidence in the Iraqi military and hope that the Mosul operation will soon end in victory. The United States and its allies are providing air support to the ground coalition currently working to liberate the city.
“I’m confident that ISIL’s days in Mosul are numbered,” Carter said. “The reality is that ISIL finds itself under pressure on all fronts simultaneously — and that’s exactly what we planned for, as we discuss next steps today in our effort to deliver ISIL the lasting defeat it deserves.”
Mosul is the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Iraq. In Syria, it retains its “capital,” Raqqa, which Carter told reporters the coalition was 20 kilometers from surrounding.
The success of the Mosul operation largely depends on the coalition on the ground working together and not abandoning the mission to turn on each other. The Shiite militias have long faced accusations of discriminatory attacks on Sunni Arabs, many Arabs distrust the Kurdish Peshmerga, and ethno-religious Christian and Yazidi minorities find themselves caught in the crossfire, so the coalition remains delicate. Christians in particular have demanded self-rule following the eradication of ISIS, arguing that only they can defend themselves from genocidal threats.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Peshmerga Colonel Zeravan Baroshki said his troops are addressing the Christian impacted by ISIS occupation with care. “We are helping and healing [the Christians], and we are ready to be martyred for them. They are our sisters, our brothers, our soul mates,” he told the outlet. Baroshki noted the Peshmerga were somewhat concerned whether President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to support Kurdish troops would result in action, but added, “I see he is with the Republican [Party], and Republicans usually solve conflicts very fast.”