The operation by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State(IS) with the support of United States(US) guidance and air support from Western nations, began on Monday. Mosul is Iraq's second largest city where as many as 1.5 million civilians still live under the strict control of the IS.
Retaking Mosul will be no easy push over for coalition forces as evident by found IS fortified caverns and bunkers extending out some 16 to 30 miles from the city center. Moreover, since the IS has had possession of the city for some two years, the modus operamdi of the group suggests many traps, suicide missions and human shields will be utilized before there could be any coalition victory against the group. Also, some intelligence suggest that the IS might employ the use of crude chemical weapons as they attempt to defend the revenue important city of Mosul.
The greatest fear facing the Mosul operation is the humanitarian welfare of about 1.5 million Iraqis who still live in the city under IS control. A BBC-News report confirms that some 5,000 Mosul residents have fled to Syria in the past 10 days ahead of the operation. However, hundreds of thousands still stand in the midst of a battle that could extend beyond two-months.
The IS is expected to use every weapon and tactic it knows and possesses in defense of Mosul. The city has been the source of a large chunk of the group's revenue. Also, some intelligence reports suggest that the IS leader and many of its hierarchy are within the limits of Mosul. Many deathly traps and suicide missions are expected to be deployed by the IS in Mosul.
Yet, with precision air power, better ground assets and fighting superiority, the Iraqi coalition should be in control of Mosul by year's end. Unfortunately, given the brutality of the IS, there could be a large humanitarian price that is paid for Mosul when all of the smoke hanging over the city has finally cleared.