By Labbaba Jahangir.
ISIS captured Mosul in a matter of few days when it swept across central and Northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. In October 2016 the Iraqi forces with the help of US started an operation, “Operation Conquest or Operation Fatah” to get back the lost areas from the control of the newly declared Caliphate. Initially the coalition forces presumed this task to be a matter of few weeks including the rehabilitation process of the occupied areas but they were mistaken. It took the forces much longer to regain control over the areas which were now governed by ISIS.
On 9th July the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi congratulated Iraqis and declared this to be the final chapter of the long battle against ISIS and the end to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Mosul. Likewise, Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior commander in Mosul of Counter Terrorism Service declared on state television that Mosul was the “final chapter”.
The conquest of Mosul was iconic because it had been declared the epicenter of the ISIS Caliphate back in 2014. Even after the victory was declared fighting was still going on. As of July there are around 300 fighters left in the area plus about 100,000 civilians. Due to which the forces faced many hurdles in completely clearing the area. Civilians continued to flee from ISIS held territory but on their road to freedom they faced many more hurdles like ISIS snipers, booby traps and Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) planted all over the area. Moreover, these people are already weak and emaciated after weeks of dealing with little food, water and lack of medical supplies in the scorching heat of 50 degrees. Now when the city has been completely cleared nothing but a rubble of stones and cement is left behind. It does not seem like a place where anyone could have survived after weeks of brutal combat but Iraqi forces are still miraculously finding some survivors. Which include both civilians and ISIS militants.
The scale of destruction in West Mosul is enormous – 15 of its 54 residential districts are completely damaged. Defeating and driving ISIS out was the first step of the long process of rehabilitation and rebuilding of the people and the city of Mosul.
Baghdad is now faced with a herculean task. Fighting a battle is much easier than bringing normality in a war stricken area. Before starting any proper rehabilitation program the forces need to clear the area completely from militants sniper etc. It is not possible to let people come back to the city which has death written on every next step. According to various reports the city of Mosul has been destroyed completely. Buildings, houses, in short all the infrastructure is turned to dust. It is also estimated that it would take roughly five years and billions of dollars to rebuilt the city.
The building cost of each house is estimated to be $5000. The Iraqi government should start with first focusing on rebuilding the basic infrastructure like roads, sewerage system, house and other required buildings. For this they needs funds which cannot be solely provide from within- the treasury being largely depleted due to the army being engaged in fighting on multiple fronts. The international community and organizations need to step in.
Next comes the step of rebuilding the city itself. By providing the required road and rail network and safety businesses can slowly return to the city. The locals should be given the first priority to establish any sort of business. ISIS banned many small businesses like tobacco shops etc. Restarting such small scale businesses can lead to the development of larger ones.
Last but not the least, psychological rehabilitation of the people of Mosul is very important. Sometimes the scars of war leave a deep impact a person’s mind and these take much longer to heal. When the people start retuning to the city some programs should be conducted which can provide them with required psychological counseling to get over this trauma and resume a normal life.
Winning a war is not the end but the beginning. Without proper plan of how the war stricken area and people are to be rebuilt and rehabilitated t victory soon seems derisory. The Iraqi government and the international community should work hand in glove for this purpose and bring life back to Mosul. The people should feel the difference in a city under a proper government and the one which was under the control of ISIS. They have sacrificed and suffered a lot and now they are looking towards their government and the international community to help them rebuilt their city and restart their lives.
Labbaba Jahangir is a student of International Relations in National Defense University. She is currently an intern in the Institute of Strategic Studies