Iraqi forces battle to retake Tal Afar from ISIL

The Battle of Tal Afar (2017) is an ongoing offensive announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in order to liberate the Tal Afar region from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the Tal Afar offensive, telling the militants “You either surrender, or die” in a televised speech. Hours beforehand, leaflets were dropped on the city telling the residents to prepare for battle.

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Mosul Is Completely Destroyed

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in western Mosul to declare its liberation from the Islamic State, he was surrounded by mountains of rubble and shattered stone—all that remains of the majority of the once-great city.
Rebuilding Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, will require many years, many billions of dollars, and deep coordination between government agencies and international partners like the United Nations Development Program or the German NGO Rebuild Iraq Recruitment Program, which support various reconstruction efforts. If lessons from the past are any indication, the reconstruction will be stymied by economic troubles, corruption, mismanagement, security problems, and the sheer scale of the destruction itself.
The longer the reconstruction is delayed, the harder and costlier it will become. This will have a serious impact on the fates of millions of people, Iraq’s economy, and its future stability, and may well lay the groundwork the creation of future militant uprisings.

In the fight to save it, here’s how Iraq’s Mosul was destroyed

The Battle of Mosul was a major military campaign launched by the Iraqi Government forces with allied militias, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and international forces to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had seized the city in June 2014. During the military intervention against ISIL, Iraqi and Peshmerga forces had already made unsuccessful attempts to retake the city 2015 and again in 2016, despite limited gains.
The offensive, dubbed Operation “We Are Coming, Nineveh” began on 16 October 2016, with forces besieging ISIL-controlled areas in the Nineveh Governorate surrounding Mosul, and continued with Iraqi troops and Peshmerga fighters engaging ISIL on three fronts outside Mosul, going from village to village in the surrounding area in the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The battle was also the world’s single largest military operation in nearly 15 years.

Mosul offensive during Ramadan

The push inside the Old City coincides with the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The offensive’s prime target is the al-Nuri mosque with its landmark leaning minaret, where Islamic State’s black flag has been flying since mid-2014.

Bridge offers escape out of Mosul

Iraq’s army has built a pontoon bridge over the Tigris river south of Mosul, after flooding had blocked all crossing points, opening an escape route for families fleeing the fighting.

Iraqi forces edge further into Mosul

Iraqi forces said they had seized ground inside Mosul’s Old City, a district expected to see some of the fiercest clashes in the battle for the militant stronghold. An operation began on February 19 to retake Mosul’s west, the last major Islamic State group urban bastion in the country, which includes the Old City. Iraqi forces have since retaken several neighbourhoods despite bad weather that has hampered air support.
But as they close in on the ancient central district they face particular difficulties. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped under IS rule in the warren of densely populated, narrow streets which restrict the use of large armoured vehicles. Federal police commander Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said yesterday that Iraqi forces backed by artillery and drones had advanced in the district. “Federal police and Rapid Response units imposed their complete control over the Al-Basha Mosque…and the Bab al-Saray market in the Old City,” he said. The two sites lie on the edge of the district in the heart of Mosul, next to the Tigris river that slices the city in two.
Further west, forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service have pushed into the Al-Rissala and Nablus quarters, senior commander Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi said. “The situation is good,” he said. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, would be a major setback for IS following months of losses in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Mosul has huge symbolic significance for the group: it was from the Old City’s Al-Nouri mosque that its secretive chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of his “caliphate” in July 2014. Iraqi forces backed by an international US-led coalition launched a vast, long-awaited operation in October to oust the militants from Mosul, completing their recapture of the east in January.

The sniper wars of Mosul

As an outnumbered and outgunned Islamic State mounts a fierce defence of their last stronghold in Iraq, snipers have been one of their most effective weapons. At times they can pin down advancing Iraqi forces for days.