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Aftermath: The Caliphate City

By Kowshik Iyer

It ended!


It all didn’t end well.


It’s the triumph of freedom, after you lost everything


It’s the peace you adore, amidst all the chaos


It was an aftermath, but was a new world for some!


The battle of Mosul has finally ended, the Iraqi army battling one of the bloodiest urban warfare liberated Mosul one neighbourhood at a time. Well-equipped ISIS fighters provided a concentrated fierce resistance all through the old city of Mosul before being finally recaptured by the Iraqi Special Forces.


Historically Mosul was the center of trade, thriving city on the Silk Road. The second biggest city of Iraq couldn't hold onto a 1,500-member attacking force from the insurgents despite 30,000 soldiers and another 30,000 federal police stationed in the city.


On June 10, 2014 Mosul fell into the hands of ISIS, giving the terror group huge amount of cash and gold reserves from the central bank of Mosul and a vast reserves of US made weapons left behind by the Iraqi soldiers which the group has used to further expand its operations in the middle east. On July 4, 2014, It was here the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave the sermon at Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri declaring the caliphate.


Beginning on 16 October 2016, American-led forces began taking back control of the city of Mosul. On 24 January 2017, the Eastern half of the city had been liberated from ISIS control, and the coalition forces began advancing into Western Mosul soon after. This coalition airstrike and pounding artillery has left most of the western Mosul in rubble.


According to a report revealed to The Independent- more than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul.


Rebuilding Mosul will take many years, billions of dollars, foreign aid and deep cooperation with the Iraqi government. United Nations and its rebuilding programs have to ramp up the scale to provide the basic infrastructure running. Roads, bridges, water supply and electric supplies have been damaged very badly and require immediate attention. Iraqi forces battled for about three months before capturing eastern Mosul, and an additional five months to gain control of the western part of the city — longer than the Iraqi military expected.


United Nations has been issuing warnings on the humanitarian crisis the Mosul offensive will endure. Tens and thousands of Mosul residents have been fleeing the city since the offensive began, some seeking shelter in nearby camps and some trying to cross into Syria. There is no relief either for residents returning to the city. Questionable Iraqi army tactics to reclaim the city has left most of the neighborhoods in ruins. Coalition airstrikes has seen many civilian casualties as well.


According to Asien Hamza, manager of Nineveh province’s reconstruction committee "Three-quarters of the roads, almost all the bridges and 65% of the electrical network have been destroyed". Much of the city's water infrastructure has been booby-trapped by the militants. (https://www.pressreader.com)


“Mosul is completely destroyed,” said Emad al-Rashidi, the adviser to the governor of Nineveh province. Once home to 1.8 million people and more than 875,000 displaced. Many can't return because their livelihood is gone. (https://www.pressreader.com/)


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces a difficult challenge of reconstruction and reconciliation of the city and the damage ISIS has left behind. Nineveh province authorities would have a difficult time convincing the minorities to re-occupy Mosul after all the atrocities ISIS has confronted to.


Did the caliphate really end?


It all started with al-Qaeda in Iraq which was formed by Sunni militants when the US troops invaded Iraq in 2003. In 2011 ISIS joined the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time it took advantage of withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and ignited the sectarianism to fight against the Shia led government in Baghdad. In 2013, ISIS began swamping large territories in Syria followed by areas of western and northern Iraq in the following year declaring the so called "caliphate". And extending to the other Kurdish regions, the group was able to establish "Islamic State".


At its peak, by January 2015 ISIS controlled over 90,800 km2 in Iraq and Syria and around 10 million people living under the Islamic state control. But today it's lost about 60 percent of the territory and 80 percent of its revenue source. It's the outcome of group fighting it's enemies on all sides of the caliphate. Towards the west, ISIS is fighting groups backed by Turkey, to the north US backed Kurdish groups, and towards the east and south, US backed Iraqi army which gave the recent blow by re-capturing the city of Mosul.


The Islamic State’s caliphate spanned an estimated 36,200 km2 on 26 June 2017, roughly the size of Belgium or the US state of Maryland, according to the latest analysis from Conflict Monitor at IHS Markit. This marks a 40 per cent reduction in territory since the start of 2017, and a 60 per cent reduction overall since our first estimate in January 2015, when the jihadist group controlled 90,800 km2 in Iraq and Syria.





















Jan-15



90,800 km2



Jan-17



60,400 km2



Jan-16



78,000 km2



Jun-17



36,200 km2



Pressure on the Islamic State is intense. US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced into the outskirts of Raqqa, while Syrian government forces are pushing east towards Deir al-Zour, the IHS Markit analysis says. In Iraq, government forces and Iran-backed militias are preparing to eliminate the last remaining pockets of Islamic State control in Hawija, Tal Afar and al-Qaim once the Mosul operation is complete.


“The Islamic State’s remaining caliphate is likely to break up before the end of the year, reducing its governance project to a string of isolated urban areas that will eventually be retaken over the course of 2018,” Strack said. (IHS Markit)


Economic decline as a result of territorial losses has been a big disaster to the Islamic state. Oil was one of the biggest revenue for IS. Since 2012 the group was able to capture large oil fields in Syria and followed by Iraq from 2014. According to an article from Business Insider in 2014, "The group controls as many as 11 oil fields in both Syria and Iraq, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the very noses of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq as well as authorities in Turkey and Jordan."


Other major financial sources for IS was from taxation. Looting was in the strategy once the group controlled bigger cities like Mosul and Raqqa. Taxation has declined rapidly due to the territorial losses the group has faced. Islamic state was quick to impose larger taxes and fines to the citizen to reimburse the losses.


According to IHS Markit report, "The Islamic State’s average monthly revenue has fallen dramatically from $81 million in Q2 2015 to $16 million in Q2 2017, a reduction of 80 percent." ISIS fighters have gone into exile, the compensation to all the loss will be to intensify terror attacks abroad and the group's financial sector will be focusing on this intention.


ISIS propaganda on social media is diminishing; a report from Combat Terrorism Center shows the slow decline in producing the media content. Initially the group focused majorly on releasing propaganda content related to governance- for instance, images of ISIS soldiers distributing food and money, fixing roads, or issuing punishments for civilian crimes. This propaganda dropped gradually, while the frequency of military-themed messages remained steady. Daniel Milton, the center’s director and author of the report, read this as a sign that ISIL was “struggling to maintain the outward appearance of a functioning state.”


Thematic Breakdown of Islamic State Releases, January 2015 - August 2016







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