In a major boost to the coalition fighters who are trying to free the Iraqi city of Mosul from the ISIS, thousands of new Shiite militia members joined forces with Kurdish and Iraqi forces on Sunday against the ISIS, USA Today reports. The addition of these trained men, many of whom who had previously served in the Iraqi army, is expected to make life even more difficult for ISIS, which has been on the back foot for the past couple of weeks. There are reports of thousands of these militiamen driving on humvees towards Mosul with Shiite banners and Iraqi flags. Many of these fighters are believed to be a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Shiite militias. Fighters from this coalition report to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. However, many of these fighters are trained by Iran and are also backed by the Iranian military.
According to estimates, on Sunday alone, more than 5,000 fighters joined the fight against the ISIS in Mosul. In the past few days, a total of more than 15,000 Shiite fighters have joined the Kurdish and Iraqi forces against the ISIS. These numbers were confirmed by Karim al-Nuri of the Popular Mobilization Forces, and Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades. Another confirmation came directly from a senior Iraqi army officer – Lt. Gen. Raed Shakir Jawdat who issued a statement on Iraqi state television confirming the same. He went on to add that the coalition forces have so far managed to liberate more than 60 villages from ISIS control in the past two weeks. They have also managed to kill more than 700 ISIS fighters.
It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that the ISIS has been steadily losing territory to coalition forces over the past few weeks. These forces have claimed to have liberated several villages around the city from the control of the ISIS. Earlier today, a spokesperson from the Kurdish peshmerga forces said that they had managed to liberate six villages located north and east of Mosul city. They also claimed to have taken control of several key arterial roads and several landmarks.
While it may seem that the battle for Mosul is now going in favor of the Kurdish and Peshmerga forces, the major task of liberating the entire city of Mosul is still incomplete. This is going to be anything but a cake walk. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and according to current estimates, it is home to more than 1.5 million people. Analysts fear that the battle will result in the loss of several civilian lives if the attacking forces engage in a street combat. It also remains to be seen if the people of Mosul – most of whom are Sunni Muslims, would support the arrival of the Shiite forces. The ISIS, in case you were unaware, follows a Sunni fundamentalist ideology. To make things more complex, these Shiite militias do not have the best human rights records against the Sunni population in Mosul.
Mosul has been under the control of the ISIS or the Islamic State since mid-2014 and is widely considered to be among the ISIS’ major achievements. Another major city that the ISIS controls is the city of Raqqa in Syria, which also serves as the de-facto capital of the Islamic State. Earlier this year, another major Iraqi city, Fallujah, was liberated from the Islamic state in a first major sign that the ISIS was gradually losing its grip over Iraq.
While the ISIS has been virtually unstoppable until now, it seems that its effort to carve a separate extremist state out of Iraq and Syria is gradually losing steam. What do you think?
[Featured Image by Marko Drobnjakovic/AP Images]