The fall of Mosul is approaching. The city in northern Iraq has been the biggest stronghold in that country for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group.
The Iraqi military has been carrying out the operation to take back Mosul since last October, supported by U.S. air strikes. The military has tightened its encirclement of the group's stronghold to an area just several hundred meters square. Iraqi troops need to gain full control of Mosul while securing the safety of residents who were left behind in the combat zone and used as "human shields" by the group.
Mosul is Iraq's second largest city and was occupied by ISIL three years ago. It is the place where ISIL's leader, terrorist suspect Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of a "caliphate," a kind of Islamic state, spanning parts of Iraq and Syria and began its harsh rule, including public executions and suppression of members of different faiths.
It has been reported that ISIL recently blew up Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque, an Islamic place of worship that was used by Baghdadi to declare the establishment of the caliphate. The group probably sought to avoid having its defeat made evident by surrendering the base as it was, a stronghold that symbolized its rule.
The areas under ISIL control have been markedly reduced in Iraq. With its revenue sources cut off, such as smuggling crude oil — which it gained through seizure of oil fields — and tribute paid by local residents, the organization has been weakened. It is hoped that the U.S.-led international coalition will accelerate its campaign to stamp out the group, thus leading to its annihilation.
The Iraqi government must make efforts to realize political stability and the improvement of the people's lives so as not to let any extremist or terrorist groups find their way into the area again, following its recapture of Mosul. For the smooth return home of residents and reconstruction of their lives, assistance and advice from the international community is essential.
In Syria as well, troops from the country's Kurdish ethnic minority are conducting an operation to take back Raqqa, an ISIL stronghold in northern Syria, which the group calls its "capital." The United States is providing logistic support, such as supplying weapons.
Not to be overlooked is that a leadership struggle among the countries concerned is intensifying over which forces will rule over the areas after ISIL is routed.
The United States supports Kurdish forces and Syrian rebel forces. Russia and Iran have intensified their military intervention in Syria, aimed at helping the regime led by Syrian President Bashar Assad regain control. It is a grave situation that there are no signs of momentum that would be conducive to cooperation between the United States and Russia.
Would it only entrench the division of Syria further if things were left as they are?
Even if ISIL falls into decline, it would not mean that the danger of terrorism posed by those influenced by extremist ideas via the internet would be lessened. Every time a heinous crime occurred in places such as London, ISIL issued its claim of responsibility by confirming them, attempting to maintain its influence.
Each country needs to grapple with reinforcing measures such as sharing terrorism-related information with other countries and examining its security system.
The Washington Post News Service & Syndicate