By Bijan Razzaghi
The situation in Iraq has calmed down after the nearly nine month battle to retake Mosul from ISIL. Mosul was ISILs last major stronghold in Iraq. once Mosul was secured by coalition forces ISIL lost its ability to control significant territory in Iraq leaving Syria the only country in the Levant where ISIL holds a major city. The battle involved the Iraqi Army, National Guard and Kurdish Peshmerga with air support and support from advisors from the United States and coalition partners. The dense street to street urban combat led to heavy coalition losses with nearly 1000 Iraqi soldiers killed in action.
Despite the heavy coalition losses the fall of Mosul to the coalition reduces the risk of ISIL attacks in Bagdad as the loss of territory reduces a terrorist organizations ability to coordinate effective attacks. Since the fall of Mosul there has not been a single ISIL bombing in Bagdad as well as other major Iraqi population centers. The last attack was the May 30th Al Faqma attack that killed 10 people in downtown Bagdad during the height of the battle. The securing of Mosul also eliminates ISILs military capability in Iraq and has effectively denied ISILs freedom of movement. This reduces the risk of ISIL using heavy military equipment captured in 2014 like 155 mm howitzers and Armored Vehicle’s such as the ILAV which have been used in deadly VBED attacks in the past.
Although ISIL has been heavily weakened there still is the risk of the group going underground and using its low profile to wage an insurgency against allied/coalition forces. As a result this success must be maintained with a continued presence of Iraqi security forces and continued raids on suspected ISIL hideouts. It is also important to maintain a presence near the border with Syria to deter ISIL counter attacks from Raqqah. One factor that led to the success was the valuable coalition training and air support. It was also important for coalition forces to maintain a low profile. The coalition presence is useful to the extent that it provides the Iraqi military with the support they need to succeed yet not to a point where it leaves coalition force vulnerable to attack. The low profile of coalition forces also reduces the risk of locals who are wary of the presence of foreign forces prior to the 2011 withdraw. It is likely a low intensity conflict will follow in the coming months or years yet the overall threat from ISIL in Iraq appears to be going down as a result of the Mosul offensive.