Since mid-October, the Iraqi military, aided by the U.S. and its allies, has been hitting areas surrounding Mosul, the last major stronghold of ISIS in Iraq, with a devastating offensive. New figures released by the Pentagon state that between 800 and 900 ISIS militants have been killed in the area's most recent round of fighting.
The U.S. military believes 3,000 to 5,000 ISIS fighters are left defending the terrorist group’s main stronghold in the country, according to CNN. A further 1,500 to 2,000 fighters are thought to be protecting the region around the city. The Iraqi and coalition forces number about 100,000.
The campaign to recapture Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, may be complicated by the troops actually fighting, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at CFR, analyzed the situation:
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Retaking Mosul would have been a hugely challenging military task in any case: street-to-street fighting against an experienced terrorist group that is willing to use suicide bombers, booby traps, human shields, and whatever it takes to hold the city. The United States, the most capable military in the world, took significant casualties reconquering urban terrain during the Iraq War. The Mosul operation will be even more complicated because it is going to be carried out by a complex coalition of Iraqi security forces (ISF), counterterrorism forces, police, and special operating forces; Kurdish peshmerga; Sunni fighters from various tribes, not all of which get along with one another; competing Shia militia groups that are insisting on being part of the battle; and various minority groups that come from Mosul and the surrounding cities. These fighters don’t have experience coordinating with one another, and, in many cases, are mortal enemies.
Gordon also detailed what is in store for the next U.S. president, assuming Mosul is recaptured from ISIS.
“If by the time [President Barack] Obama turns it over to his successor we will have taken back most of the territory that ISIS held in Iraq, the task for the next administration will be to stabilize the situation,” Gordon stated. “Raqqa, in Syria, may be isolated or liberated by then as well. Obama will be handing over to his successor an ISIS that has suffered battlefield, ideological, and financial setbacks, and had its flow of foreign fighters diminished. The task for his successor -- still a big one -- will be to consolidate military gains and more inclusive politics in Iraq and to pursue a solution in Syria that ends the sectarian fighting that fuels ISIS.”