Since October of 2015 the coalition led mission to recapture Mosul was underway. Since then, the U.S led operations has gained some ground in the past couple of months. As stated by Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend “within the next six months I think we’ll see both (the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) conclude.” However the question remains what is the plan for after major towns and cities are liberated? The steps that are taken after such victory will have consequences that will have a lingering affect in the future.
Earlier when ISIS gained major footholds of the Iraqi and Syrian country, it was illusive to say that a full victory would take place within a year. The world was paralyzed on how to address the growing threat from a hybrid of what Al-Qaeda use to be. The methods used by Daesh did indeed instill fear, not only to the Iraqis or Syrians, but as well as to the world.
The tactics used by ISIS ranged from mass beheadings to the burying of their victims alive. However, on the battle front ISIS has used hospitals as a way to handcuff coalition forces from executing their mission. As per the rules of war buildings such as hospitals are protected from attacks. If it is a military hospital a warning must be given before an attack is to take place.
As ISIS used a hospital in al Salam, the bodies of Iraqi soldiers were paraded around the town that held the hospital. Illustrating their true barbaric nature, the Iraqi populace was more horrified than receptive. An eyewitness to the events described the actions in the following manner “We just stood there on the street, horrified, ISIS used to come to the neighborhood and give us these videos of executions, telling us we needed to watch them, but we ignored them and didn’t. So witnessing this was just so awful.”
In addition to their tactics, ISIL has even adapted to the use of drone warfare. For example “In October, two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed in northern Iraq when a modified drone exploded.” In essence this group still has the means to instill their rain of terror and even though a military victory will be a defining moment it will be just that a moment.
The group still maintains a hold through out the country in places such as; Albaghdadi, Maktab Khalid, and West of Ramadi to name a few. When coalition forces are successful in claiming the whole city-in Syria the coalition there has taken back a lot of previously held territory illustrating the break down of ISIS- they will have to worry about the civilians who are lacking living essentials such as food, water, and proper medical attention.
The current youth unemployment rate is 18% and factoring the affects of conflicts such as this, jobs will be difficult to come by as the rebuilding process begins. For this to be a successful military campaign, one should acknowledge that it will take more time to fully liberate the country of Iraq from daesh. If military advisors ignore the small towns that are currently occupied you in essence give them time to regroup. Once full security has been established a continuing international military presence should follow.
The name of the game will then be to provide adequate training for the Iraqis to combat the threat of terrorism in their home country. As many will be against it an American presence is essential in maintaining a place in the region and to fix its image as true harbinger of democracy if it focuses on the military front.
In the domestic front the Iraqi government with the partnership economically from foreign governments work to providing an inclusive culture. One observation made was how ISIL worked on the strings of division in Iraq and even though it did not last long or have a major impact, it did stiff military cooperation in the begin of the conflict. It is essential that the basic needs of living are met in war torn cities. It will be a recruiting ground if the general populace is left “naked” without any assistance.
This process also known as winning the hearts and minds is going to be the true victory in the military campaign against ISIL. If foreign governments stay out of the domestic politics and assist from a far the outcome can be one of success. Again it will depend on the direction the government goes in as well, whether to be willing to have open dialogue with the Kurds and mending the wounds of a regime that have not healed fully. One can truly be hopeful and not defeatist, for the problems we see are one of man and for that we as a global community can mend and fix our mistakes.