Beirut- The two past weeks have witnessed the launch of the anticipated attack against ISIS’s stronghold in Mosul. While the Iraqi government and U.S. forces have confirmed that it will be a decisive battle, some analysts see that it may not lead to a complete eradication of the terrorist organization, which has proved its capability on development and survival over the past years.
ISIS has announced split from Al-Qaeda in 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama underestimated its powers and described it as a group of small players in the radical movement. Yet, ISIS suddenly controlled Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq in June 2014. Over the two past years, the organization has succeeded in controlling the city and in advancing to seize many lands in Syria and Iraq supported by other extremist groups in the region. However, during the past months, ISIS has faced many major defeats and has lost 30% of its control areas, reported IHS JANE Center.
According to Syria Net, ISIS has loosed the following cities in Syria and Iraq:
* Ain al-Arab (Kobani): it is a Syrian city of a Kurdish majority, located in the far Northeast of Aleppo, on the Turkish borders. The city has witnessed heavy battles launched by Kurdish fighters against ISIS for more than four months. In January 2015, they have succeeded in Kicking out ISIS’ militants with the support of the U.S.-led International Coalition forces.
* Tell Abyad: located in Raqqa on the Turkish borders, which was controlled by the Kurds in June 2015. This city has been considered an important point used for the transit of weapons and fighters between Turkey and Raqqah, ISIS’s stronghold in Syria.
* Tadmur: ISIS siezed Tadmur in Homs in May 2015 and destroyed many of its historic monuments included in the UNESCO list. Supported by the Russian air force, Assad’s troops have succeeded in recapturing the city on 27 March 2016.
* Manbij: Syrian city recaptured by Kurdish militias on 6 August 2016 supported by the U.S. forces, after it fell under the control of ISIS since 2014.
* Jarablus: recaptured by Syrian fighting factions including the Free Syrian Army supported by the U.S. forces on 24 August 2014, as part of the “Euphrates Shield” operation launched by the Turkish forces against ISIS and the Kurdish militias at the same time.
* Syrian-Turkish borders: on 4 September, the Turkish forces and factions it supports succeeded in clearing ISIS from the last area it controls on the borders.
* Dabiq: Recaptured by Syrian opposition factions on 18 October.
* Tikrit: on 31 March, Iraqi forces have announced the recapture of Tikrit after a massive military operation.
* Sinjar: on 13 November 2015, Kurdish militias have released the city from ISIS’ control with the support of the International Coalition. This liberation succeeded in breaking a strategic route the extremist groups were using for transit between Syria and Iraq.
* Ramadi: Liberated on 9 February 2016.
* Fallujah: which was among the first Sunni cities seized by ISIS in 2014; the Iraqi Army has recaptured it on 26 June 2016.
* Al-Kayyara: Supported by the International Coalition, the Iraqi Forces have liberated it from ISIS members on 9 July 2016 to pave the way for the Mosul battle.
Battle of Mosul
Experts expect the battle of Mosul to last for two to three months and to be the toughest, particularly in the old neighborhoods of the city. Ghanem al-Abed, an expert from Mosul, told Asharq Al-Awsat he expects ISIS members to move toward Syria when they lose control.
Not the end
Despite all these incidents that have weakened ISIS, Mosul’s fall is not expected to lead toward the organization’s eradication. According to figures, ISIS still has 10,000-15,000 fighters compared to 30,000 in 2014. In a report released on “War on the Rocks” website, analysts have warned the parties combating ISIS from announcing a total collapse of ISIS, because over the past year, this latter has proved a remarkable capacity in working discretely.
The ongoing Battle in Mosul in no more than the first phase of “cleaning, returning stability and construction” campaign, which will be launched in the coming months or years. According to sources, the Iraqi army should focus of destroying not only the military infrastructure of ISIS, but also its secret cells and networks.