Iraqi forces, joined by a coalition of American military advisers, Kurdish peshmerga troops and others, have been engaged in a major operation to free the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS since mid-October. Now, with the eastern portion of the city nearly free, an Iraqi commander sees the tide turning.
"The force left in front of us is small, unable to stop our advance,” Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, the Iraqi major general and a commander of the Iraqi military’s special forces, told Reuters. “Their spirit is broken ... We have killed more than 992 fighters on our front plus more wounded ... Their supplies and communications to the outside world are cut. They stage fewer suicide bombings."
But U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, who represents the coalition forces working with the Iraqi military in Mosul, dampens Asadi’s optimism.
"Right now it's very hard," Dorrian said, reports Reuters. "[ISIS] has been in the city for two years with a lot of time to build very elaborate defenses and to hoard weapons and resources that are now being used to complicate the advance."
Initial estimates of insurgent forces in Mosul totaled 5,000 to 6,000, according to Reuters. But Asadi now claims those figures may have been too high.
Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, has been under ISIS rule since 2014. It is believed 1 to 1.2 million people still live in the city.
The future is unclear for the civilians left in the city.
“I'm not a military expert, but looking to the situation on the ground it's very obvious that the eastern side will come under [Iraqi] government control,” Alex Milutinovic, Iraq Director for the International Rescue Committee, told NPR. “And then anything can happen with the western side. And we expect on the western side there are 400,000 people that might come under siege. And we have seen how devastating siege can be in the situation of Aleppo and other cities. So we have a significant concern for people that remain in the city after eastern side is taken.”