WASHINGTON – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared victory over ISIS in the city of Mosul on Monday, marking the largest defeat to date of the terror group that first declared the creation of its self-styled caliphate from the same city three years ago.
“From here, from the heart of the liberated Mosul, with the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all provinces, we announce the awaited victory to all of Iraq, and the Iraqis,” Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television.
“I declare the end, the collapse and the failure of the false terror state of ISIS.”
There are still pockets of ISIS fighters in Mosul, both hidden and known.
The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, stretched for nine months. A 100,000-person-strong coalition of Iraqi government units, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shia armed groups backed by air and ground power by a U.S.-led coalition first seized the east of the city and then regrouped before crossing the Tigris River into the west.
The forces encountered the toughest fighting in the west of the city, where ISIS had fortified its defenses and living quarters are tighter, resulting in dense urban warfare. The Iraqi special forces leading the fight in Mosul lost 40 percent of their men.
The battle left large swaths of the city in ruins, with more than half of the buildings in west Mosul needing repair, according to the U.N. Thousands of civilians were killed in the fight, and more than 920,000 others were displaced.
The U.N. warned Monday tht thousands of the 700,000 residents still displaced will remain so for some time because of the extensive damage caused by airstrikes, artillery and IEDs deployed during the conflict.
“Make no mistake; this victory alone does not eliminate ISIS and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin capitals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a decisive blow,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement.
“This victory does not mark the end of this evil ideology and the global threat of ISIS. Now it is time for all Iraqis to unite to ensure ISIS is defeated across the rest of Iraq and that the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq are not allowed to return again.”
The hard-line Islamist group still controls significant territory south and west of Mosul, and has proven the ability to continue to carry out attacks in government-held areas after they are retaken. U.S. officials have long said that they anticipate the group to continue as a terrorist insurgency and inspire attacks abroad after its physical territory is overrun.
U.S. officials have said the anti-ISIS coalition will maintain a presence in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS, to ensure stable enough conditions to allow the Iraqi government to rebuild the war-torn nation.
ISIS militants seized Mosul in June 2014, before taking control of large parts of northern and western Iraq. A month later, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made an appearance at the city’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, proclaiming the creation of a caliphate. ISIS destroyed the 842-year-old mosque in late June.
News of the group’s defeat in Mosul comes as rebel forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), encircle the ISIS stronghold in Syria. The city of Raqqa was once considered the group’s de facto caliphate, from where administrative functions were managed.
The fall of the city now appears all but certain. ISIS has already moved administrative functions of the caliphate, bureaucrats and the media team out of Raqqa and down the Euphrates River Valley to the cities of Mayadin and Deir al-Zour, U.S. officials have said.
CJTF-OIR CG: “The Coalition is proud to stand side-by-side with our Iraqi partners as they celebrate their hard-fought victory” pic.twitter.com/Dg8Bz2kGkh
— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) July 10, 2017