The battle for Mosul (2016) by Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces with US military strategic, tactical and logistical assistance rages on against an expansive, formidable and well-nestled Islamic State militia.
The first battle for Mosul, the capital of the Ninawa Governorate of northern Iraq, was fought in 2004 following the American invasion of Iraq a year earlier.
Realities on the battlefield, such as, the forced involvement of civilians as human shields, the fact that Mosul is now for all practical purposes surrounded by liberating armies to the north, east and south of the city, have reached a stage where all sides should stop and think about the way forward.
It should also be acknowledged that there is no binding agreement between the members of the multifaceted coalition that has assembled to take Mosul from ISIS, as to how the war should best be conducted. In addition to the lack of an immediate detailed plan for conducting the liberation of Mosul, neither is there sufficient forward planning as to what the long-term goals are beyond a rather vague statement concerning the defeat of the Islamic State and ending their control of the long suffering city of Mosul.
This does not bode well for the establishment of a lasting governance regime. As it stands the fight against ISIS will be followed by a fight between the temporary coalition partners engaged in the battle to wrestle control of Mosul from ISIS.
There is no discernable consensus between the liberating forces as to who will control the city and the surrounding areas once the Islamic State has been dislodged from Mosul.
The conduct of the campaign to free Mosul has to contend with not only the forced involvement of so many civilians, but an equally challenging decision is to whether the goal is to capture and imprison the vast majority of ISIS fighters, or alternatively to kill the vast majority of them.
The decisions made in these areas require a considerable amount of forward planning and facility preparation. We will take a closer look at the implications of the battle for Mosul in relation to the saftety of the civilian population of Mosul as well as the decision to attempt to capture and imprison as opposed to the decision to simply kill the vast majority of ISIS fighters.
If, for example, is it the intention of the coalition to press ahead into Mosul proper, inspite of the fact that ISIS militants continue to use the civilian population as human shields, there are going to be a lot of civilian casualties? And, if so, one should have an idea as to what constitutes an acceptable level of collateral damage, civilian casualities, before the battle commences?
ISIS controls a swath of territory extending from Mosul westward to an area just east of Aleppo, Syria as shown in red in the map above.