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Assault on Mosul

February 21, 2017 | Expert Insights

Can it lead to an increase in terrorism?

On 19th February 2017, Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Jihadists defending Mosul's west bank. They swiftly retook five villages and set their sights on Mosul airport, marking a new phase in Iraq's largest military operation in years. The Islamic State group defended Mosul, the city where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in 2014.

What is the Battle History?

In 2014, IS jihadists overran Mosul and swathes of territory North and West of Baghdad. The Iraqi government launched the offensive to conquer Mosul on 17th Oct 2016. The long-awaited attack with air and ground support from the US-led coalition. The Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against IS declared East Mosul fully liberated on 24th Jan 2017. It took Iraq's most seasoned forces, the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, more than two months to clear the eastern side of Mosul.

Iraqi forces now face Mosul's West bank, home to the narrow streets of the Old City with an estimated 4,00,000 civilians remaining. Iraqi planes dropped millions of leaflets on the western side of Mosul warning residents that the battle to dislodge Islamic State was imminent.

The Latest Attack

In Western Mosul, tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through the narrow streets and alleyways.  The battle in West ern Mosul is likely to be more difficult than in Eastern Mosul, as it will involve fighting in built-up areas. The assaulting forces are made up of Iraqi armed forces, elite paratroopers, police, Kurdish forces and Iranian-trained Shia paramilitary groups. US is providing air and ground support to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Operations also have to cater for the displacement of up to 400,000 civilians facing food and fuel shortages.


After the capture of Aleppo, the fall of Mosul should bring some much needed respite to the Iraq-Syria war. However, the fall of Mosul may take several weeks, if not months. During the closing days, the ISIS may resort to suicide attacks to expand the conflict and divert attention. Many terrorists may also seek to escape and take refuge in other parts of the world.