Iraqi special forces have broken the front line in Mosul, but the battle’s next phase will be the most dangerous; Islamic State will have heavily fortified the main city, and the risk of the Coalition fracturing along sectarian lines will continue to grow.
These latest advances are welcome, but the real test of the coalition is about to come. Kyle Orton, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society and author of Profiles of Islamic State Leaders, a major research report into the governance of the caliphate, raises concerns that stiffer resistance may soon be encountered, and that the Coalition’s viability will be tested as the different factions come into contact within the city.
Kyle Orton said: “The Mosul Operation continues to make steady progress, having now breached the city’s front line itself. The next period will be the real beginning of this battle, which has so far taken place in peripheral zones.
“Islamic State should be expected to have erected dense urban defence structures, including barriers and tunnels, IEDs, booby traps on everything from houses to mail boxes, and the prolific use of snipers and suicide bombers. IS also retains control of Hawija to use as a staging ground and continues to have the capacity to menace areas like Qayyara. This vulnerability behind the lines is likely to protract the battle, as has already been seen.
“The likelihood of political difficulties and the fraying of the anti-IS Coalition, specifically the entry of Iranian-controlled sectarian militias into the city, increases as this battle prolongs and the casualties rise.”