Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced that Mosul, once a stronghold of ISIS, has been recaptured by Iraqi forces. “From here, from the heart of the liberated and free Mosul, by the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all the provinces, we declare the great victory for all of Iraq and Iraqis,” al-Abadi said in a Monday conference. While there is still fighting in a small corner of the city, Iraqi forces celebrated the victory with the planting of the Iraqi flag on the banks of the Tigris River in Mosul’s Old City. Iraqis had been fighting with ISIS over the city for the past three forces, with the help of American forces. The coordination between Iraqi and U.S. forces began nine months ago, in which U.S. airstrikes would pave the way for Iraqi ground forces to gain territory.
After years of fighting, Mosul has become mostly rubble in many of its formerly popular areas. Very few civilians continue to live in the area, and it remains to be seen if former Mosul residents will feel safe in moving back. A couple of people were seen on Monday returning to the city, and a makeshift market was seen selling chickens. Fawaz Gerges, an expert in Iraqi society at the London School of Economics and Political Science, says that “The first challenge facing the Iraqi government and international organizations is to provide basic necessities of life for more than 400,000 Iraqis who have been displaced from the western part of Mosul, which mostly lies in ruins.” Another issue in people moving back is the initial lack of employment. Estimates in rebuilding the Old City, the center of Mosul, rise to $1 billion.
An early candidate for a coordinator for the reconstruction efforts is Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, who heads Iraq’s counterterrorism service. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces in general may decide to focus their attention on Tal Afar, a smaller city that remains under ISIS control.