Stable Peace Looks Elusive as War on Islamic State Nears an end

Article/Op-Ed in the Australian
July 8, 2017

David Kilcullen wrote for the Australian about the battle of Mosul and noted that the idea of stability in the region is distant:

On June 29, 2014, in the Grand Mosque of Mosul, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced Islamic State’s “caliphate”. Last week, three years later to the day, Iraqi troops recaptured it. Islamic State fighters had already blown up the mosque, leaving the medieval building in ruins and destroying its famous leaning minaret. The site is still off-limits: Iraqi bomb disposal teams believe the insurgents left it laced with booby-traps as they pulled out.
The mosque’s capture signalled the beginning of the end in an ­intense urban battle that began last November. As I wrote at the time, for sheer scale — size of the city, numbers of combatants and civilian population involved — Mosul has been not just the largest urban battle of the war in Iraq but the largest battle of any kind, anywhere, this century. It also has been one of the longest, pushing eight months of combat. And it’s not over yet: Islamic State holds only a tiny defensive enclave in the thicket of narrow streets and alleyways making up the old city of Mosul, its defenders bailed up along the western edge of the ­Tigris River, but the fighting in this area has been remarkably heavy even for Mosul.
The insurgents laid down a dense network of mines and impro­vised explosives, dug ­trenches into streets, fortified houses, tunnelled between and under buildings, emplaced snipers on rooftops and launched dozens of ferocious counter-attacks as Iraqi forces and coalition advisers closed in. They used hobby drones fitted with grenades as makeshift bombers to target advancing troops, destroyed large parts of the city’s infrastructure and mounted waterborne attacks across and along the river. They also have made extensive use of suicide bombers: just in the past week there were two successful and seven attempted attacks against Iraqi forces by women hiding bomb vests under their clothes.