After eight months of challenging urban warfare, Iraqi government troops captured the ruined mosque in the city of Mosul from where the Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate three years ago. Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in the coming days as the remaining Islamic State fighters are now bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City. The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the Islamic State caliphate even though the hardline group would still control territory west and south of the city. The cost of the battle has been enormous, however. In addition to military casualties, thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed. Nevertheless, the commander the combined joint task force-operation, Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend declared the operation as a success, pointing to a joint effort of the international community to assure Iraqis would liberate their country. “Over the course of these past two years, a coalition of more than 60 nations has united to defeat ISIL (Islamic State). We have conducted tens of thousands of precision strikes to support Iraqi operations. We’ve trained and equipped more than 54,000 Iraqi forces, and we supported our Iraqi partners as they fought to liberate their country,” Commander of Combined Joint Task Force Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said.
Even though the destruction of the Islamic State is imminent in both Iraq and Syria, the growing operations by the extreme Muslim group are far from over, as its followers elevate their efforts to target the West by committing heinous acts of terror. Counter-terrorism experts told TV7 that the next step in defeating the group would demand a global effort to combat its radical Muslim ideology, a much more difficult battle than the one waged on the battlefield.