ISIS fighters are turning on their fellow jihadis as Iraqi security forces have officially declared victory in Mosul. Nine months of intense fighting has left the group decimated with most of its fighters in northern Iraq either dead or captured.
The fall of Iraq’s second largest city has been the biggest defeat to the group so far, and has left Raqqa as the last remaining stronghold of the caliphate. This also appears to have prompted members of the group in Afghanistan to intensify their push against the Taliban with the hopes of establishing a new caliphate in the country should Raqqa fall.
In late May, the group announced it had killed 115 Taliban fighters. This number is now believed to have risen to over 200 due to the intensified fighting, particularly in the eastern Nangarhar province where the group had been pushing to expel the Taliban.
This weekend, Islamic State militants reportedly overran three Taliban positions in the Tora Bora mountain regions. This resulted in the capture of several arms caches and the beheading of rival jihadis, which the group has released images of, reports Al-Masdar News.
Jihadis have been divided in the region ever since Islamic State fighters began encroaching in Taliban territory. The group’s barbaric practices have forced many would-be extremists to join the Taliban instead, who they view as more “moderate” than the newcomers.
The group’s intensified offensive in Afganistan could be a reaction to the caliphate’s dire situation in Iraq and Syria, which is currently in danger of being dismantled by a combined Arab, Kurdish, and coalition offensive. The imminent fall of the group’s stronghold of Mosul has increased the need to carve out a new safe haven for the caliphate, and the mountains of Afghanistan appear to be promising.
For the past three years, Mosul was under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, officially announced the group to the world in one of its mosques. However, after the battle with Iraqi government forces, the group, much like the mosque, now lies in shambles.
Fighting last week saw the last bastion of the group in Mosul’s Old City being overrun by security forces. In desperation, some jihadis opted to swim across the Tigris River, only to drown in the water.
According to the Daily Mail, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has officially declared victory in Mosul today with Iraqi air strikes mopping up the final jihadi positions in the city. The group is now clinging to just 600 yards of territory within the city.
The victory came at a great cost howevever, with most of the city being leveled after months of air strikes and artillery. The group also desecrated historical structures and monuments during their occupation, effectively erasing much of Mosul’s history.
Pockets of jihadis still remain in northern Iraq and will undoubtedly return to more conventional insurgent tactics, like suicide bombings and the use of IEDs. Iraqi forces will continue mopping up operations in the city, as well as surrounding areas, to make sure no extremists remain.
World leaders welcomed the victory in Mosul, particularly those who were part of the coalition that conducted air strikes against ISIS. While al-Abadi has yet to confirm the city is clear of the group, their defeat is already certain; all that is left is to lose.
French president Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to congratulate the Iraqi government. In the tweet, Macron says that France pays homage to those who contributed to this victory, France included.
British Defense Minister Michael Fallon also congratulated the Iraqi government for their victory in Mosul. Calling the group by its Arabic name, Daesh, Fallon also warned that more has to be done to combat the group, who he believes is still dug in west of the Euphrates River.
[Featured Image by Nabil al-Jurani/AP Images]