Since Donald Trump took the reins as commander in chief, he’s made it known to Defense Secretary James Mattis (and the world, frankly) that the U.S. military should have free rein to do whatever is necessary to crush ISIS in its stronghold in Iraq (a stronghold made possible by the vacuum left by his predecessor, B. Hussein Obama).During the Obama years, the U.S. seemed to have “unlearned” the concept of victory, and that the purpose of military action is to get a result: defeat of the enemy.
But thanks to aggressive action by coalition forces alongside Iraqi security forces, defeat of ISIS in Mosul appears to be at hand, but you won’t hear about this in the mainstream media. Instead you get this headline from the UK Independent: “Here in Iraq, Isis is being defeated – but with US policy in disarray, it doesn’t feel any safer.” Great. So we should just leave them there?
ISIS has certainly been the most ambitious terrorist organization in history, with the goal of establishing a global caliphate (i.e. an Islamist government ruled by Islamic law). The group didn’t rise to the globe’s attention until 2014, when they began making aggressive territorial grabs in Iraq and Syria, marked by bloodshed and despicable acts of violenc. At the heart of their so-called Islamic State is their de-facto capital of Mosul, where in 2014, ISIS-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave a famous sermon declaring his Caliphate in the 842-year-old al-Nuri mosque.
Just weeks ago (on June 22nd), it was reported that the al-Nuri mosque had been destroyed by ISIS themselves after significant territorial losses there, seeming to signify that the group was acknowledging their time in Mosul was limited.
Video released by Iraq's military appears to show Nouri Mosque in Mosul being detonated by explosives. pic.twitter.com/EnY6CHmMA7— Tamer El-Ghobashy (@TamerELG) June 21, 2017
Now, not long after the very mosque in which ISIS was declared a caliphate was turned into ruins, it’s being reported by Business Insider that ISIS holds nothing more than the length of a few football fields in Iraq’s second-largest city, according to New Zealand Army Brigadier Hugh McAslan, the deputy commanding general for land forces in Operation Inherent Resolve.“In the last couple of weeks in particular, [Iraqi security forces] have made great progress in what has been a very difficult fight, in very difficult terrain,” McAslan told Business Insider from Baghdad in a Skype interview.
“Certainly as we come into these last few neighborhoods, it’s very clear to us ISIS is a desperate and degraded enemy.”According to McAslan, only about 15 acres, or approximately 3 percent of Mosul, remains in the hands of ISIS forces as the Iraqi military moves further into the western part of the city. Although ISIS still has small pockets of terrain in Iraqi cities such as Hawija, Tal Afar, and Al Qaim, McAslan is confident that once the city is recaptured, other cities will continue to fall.
What the Iraqis have done in Mosul is “hugely significant against a very brutal and cruel enemy,” McAslan said.
As ISIS defeats mount, the question remains as to whether the end of ISIS as a “state” will mean the end of ISIS? Seems unlikely. Its brand of violent jihad continues to inspire attacks around the globe, and while the command center may be destroyed, the ideology lives on.