While Islamic State’s removal from power in Mosul is obviously necessary, the different forces operating against them may become rivals in the aftermath. It is far from clear that Islamic State will lose the capacity to operate clandestinely within and around Mosul after ceding political control.
The battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State has begun. The Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi government, and allied forces began their assault today. As Mosul is Islamic State’s largest stronghold, this represents an essential step in dismantling the caliphate. It is also an extremely dangerous step. Islamic State controls a large civilian population and has no concern whatsoever for their safety. Additionally it is far from clear what the aftermath of a successful recapture will be; different parts of the coalition have differing objectives and in the past Islamist groups have demonstrated the capacity to mount terrorist insurgent campaigns long after the levers of power are wrested from them.
Kyle Orton, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, said; “The operation to clear the Islamic State from Mosul will, upon completion, effectively deprive the group of the Iraqi half of its caliphate.
“In many ways this is the easy part, however. The military preparations have significantly outpaced the political and diplomatic ones. There are multiple, competing local and international interests involved in Mosul, and no agreement about their role in the aftermath.
“The political turmoil after the Islamic State is driven from overt control of the city, as well as the Islamic State’s deep underground infrastructure in the area that cannot be uprooted if the new order is viewed as illegitimate, risks providing a path for the Islamic State’s revival.”