Azmat Khan spoke on Democracy Now! about the devastation in Mosul from the liberation of ISIS control:
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Azmat Khan, award-winning investigative journalist, a Future of War fellow at New America. She’s spent the last year and a half investigating how the U.S.-led war against ISIS is playing out on the ground in Iraq.
You were recently in Mosul. Talk about the devastation there and the significance of what’s just happened.
AZMAT KHAN: The devastation in Mosul is unprecedented when compared to every other city retaken from ISIS. Now, it is symbolic and long-fought. Mosul was the largest city overtaken by ISIS. But no one believes this is over. The level of destruction is incredible. There will be violence to come, despite these last pockets finally having been taken. Even when east Mosul, on the other side, was retaken several months ago, there were a spate of suicide bombing, of booby traps, of rigged homes, of snipers, of things that happened to really antagonize the local population even after it had been retaken. And we’re going to see much more of that on this other side of Mosul. This west Mosul side really has seen coalition airstrikes. It’s seen ISIS attacks. It’s borne the brunt of things in incredible ways that are just unprecedented when compared to other parts of Iraq.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And why has it been so devastating? Is it that ISIS had support among the population, or is it that there were many more fighters involved? What precisely—or is it just indiscriminate bombing on the part of the U.S. forces?
AZMAT KHAN: There’s certainly a history involved here. Now, this side of Mosul was where many of those who were antigovernment violent groups, not just ISIS, but others, had largely been present in this part of the city. It is also sort of historically one of the areas in which these groups were able to sort of camp out. And so what you’ve seen is certain parts of it were incredibly symbolic—al-Nuri mosque, which is where Baghdadi appeared several years ago, and we recently saw blown up by ISIS. Many of these artifacts are in this area. It was the last sort of holdout area. It was essentially a siege, in many ways, by these ISIS fighters who have been left. But historically this part of Mosul, because it’s closer to the border with Syria, has been where a lot of militants who have crossed borders have been located.