ISIS takes control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham seized control of Mosul, which is the provincial capital of Ninewa and Iraq’s second largest city, after five days of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces. Mosul is the second major city to fall to the former al Qaeda affiliate this year.

Fighters from the ISIS took control of government buildings, including the provincial headquarters, as well as police stations and military installations inside and outside of the city, according to reports. Several police stations were torched by the ISIS. Some Iraqi soldiers and policemen are said to have shed their uniforms before fleeing their posts to avoid being captured and executed by ISIS fighters.

The ISIS has raised the black flag of jihad and “announced over loudspeaker that they had ‘come to liberate Mosul and would fight only those who attack them,'” the BBC reported.

Usamah al Nujayfi, the speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives whose brother is the governor of Ninewa, told Al Baghdadiyah Satellite Television that “the right and left sides of the city of Mosul as well as its districts and subdistricts have been completely occupied.”

Nujayfi also accused Iraqi security forces of abandoning their posts and leaving weapons, ammunition, and armored vehicles behind.

“When the battle intensified inside the city of Mosul, these forces gave up their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind arms, armored vehicles, and locations for the terrorists,” Nujayfi continued. “Mosul Airport and some aircrafts and command locations have fallen, not to mention arms warehouses. Prisons have been taken and the prisoners have been released.” Some reports indicate that hundreds of prisoners have been freed.

Nujayfi also warned that the ISIS fighters are “now heading toward Salahaddin Governorate,” and that the villages outside of Al Shirqat “have been entirely occupied.”

It is unclear how many Iraqi soldiers, policemen, and civilians were killed in the latest round of fighting in Mosul.

The ISIS began its assault on Mosul five days ago, when hundreds of fighters entered the city in pickup trucks and attacked government installations and security forces. ISIS fighters took control of several neighborhoods, but the military claimed that it beat back the jihadists and killed 105 fighters as they retreated. Yet the military said that 10 percent of Mosul remained under ISIS control. Eighteen security personnel were reported killed on the first day of fighting.

Mosul was the last major city to serve as a bastion for the ISIS after the US and Iraqi forces launched counterinsurgency operations as part of the surge that began in 2007. By the time US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, the ISIS was operating as terrorist cells in the city. Close proximity to Syria allowed the ISIS to continue operating in Mosul and the northwestern province of Ninewa. The ISIS began reasserting itself as the Syrian civil war picked up steam in the summer of 2011 and US forces withdrew from Iraq a few months later in December.

Mosul is the second major city to fall completely under the control of the ISIS this year. At the beginning of January, the ISIS and allied tribal groups seized Fallujah, the second largest city in Anbar province. The ISIS immediately imposed sharia, or Islamic law. Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, also briefly fell under the ISIS’ control, but Iraqi forces regained much of the city. Other smaller cities and towns in Anbar are under the ISIS’ influence.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • KaneKaizer says:

    What a mess. I’m surprised ISIS can sustain a war on two fronts against so many enemies.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Wow. ISIS is becoming quite the regional force, on the same level of Hezbollah. Mr. Riggio, is there any connection between ISIS and Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri? I call him the “Orangatang”. He was by far one of Saddam’s most effective commanders during the Iraq/Iran war and the Sunni rebellion after Saddam was killed. I do believe that he was never captured/killed.

  • Stephanie says:

    Very sad, and likely the fruit of the 2011 withdrawl.

  • Matt says:

    This war will make the Iran-Iraq War look like a cake walk. Obama ended the war by setting off a much larger one.

  • Dave says:

    Welcome to Kabul in 2017. This is what will happen in Afghanistan, Mr. President, if your administration withdraws all but embassy staff at the end of 2015.
    The question, Mr. President, is whether Iraq and Afghanistan falling to the most extreme, militant forces of Islam will result in attacks on American interests abroad or again here at home. Will you be the President who allowed these forces to develop foreign sanctuaries from which to attack Europe and America?

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    ISIS has done this because of Iraqi incompetence. Isolating the Sunnis certainly didn’t help nor the Syrian civil war next door. If the Iraqi army were discipline and secured the borders effectively, we would not have seen ISIS taking cities one by one. Would be interesting to know how the west is going to react to this. I suspect drones are going to be in the menu for Iraq, just like in Yemen and Pakistan.

  • Adrian says:

    Blaming Obama is ridiculous in my opinion. Clearly invading Iraq was a mistake that has launched an era of suffering for the locals. Saddam was crazy but these ISIS are worse. What exactly did America gain? Remember the war cost 1 trillion already and probably another trillion to come in caring for our wounded. What did we gain? Why didn’t we spend the money on education?

  • Brian Henderson says:

    Perhaps another two trillion dollars would have done the trick

  • Aezino says:

    We should not send any weapons to the Iraqi government, which they do not pay for in full. The Iraqi government is no friend of ours. They sided with the illegal government in Iran.
    Any equipment we send for free to Iraq will be wasted, destroyed or captured. If we sell it, at least we have employment and functioning factories.
    Let the Iranians bleed. They had a hand in creating the circumstances. We will come out ahead that way.

  • Yrs Ago it was said says:

    And the Caliphate Rises…even higher!
    And no one listened, those that did …
    were mocked.
    And He that uttered it….
    was Shunned, Mocked, Ridiculed and the USGOVT Dis-Information machine & Propaganda Devils…Went to work in overtime.
    Yet the Truth is right before all to see

  • Will Fenwick says:

    I don’t think drones will be sent to iraq, the administration will do everything it can to prevent US forces from returning to iraq. What i think will happen instead is an acceleration of more advanced weapon sales to Iraq and possibly an increase in aid. I would expect the US to handle the situation in iraq in a similar fashion to the situation in Somalia, ie fighting through proxies rather than using domestic forces.

  • Jake says:

    The neoconservative hope of having Iraq become a bastion for democracy and stability in the Middle East is hanging by a thread.
    I see a few blaming Obama for this mess. If we’re going to play the Monday quarterback game, then you must admit that invading Iraq in the first place was a costly mistake for this country and ultimately the responsibility of the Bush administration.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    You’re right, Dave. But, so what? No more American lives or money wasted on these people and these lands! This fighting has been going on in these countries pretty much since they were inhabited. Dictators have been the only ones to stop it. That should tell you something about these people and islam. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I once supported fighting for the freedom of these people and their right to choose. Well, that’s been done and they have chosen.allah akbar!

  • Adrian says:

    Jeff and Dave, I respect your opinion that staying in Iraq might have helped them build their army, but they didn’t want us there anymore. The government we created there staffed by the Iraqis we were allied with asked us to leave. Begged us to leave. We invaded two countries under Bush and he declared victory in both when they were both headed in the wrong direction. This latest news isn’t the end of the world but it should end any thought that there was wisdom in invading Iraq. There was ignorance and arrogance. But we are a country that can learn from our mistakes. Humility and friendship with other democracies is the path forward.

  • M3fd2002 says:

    Playing the blame game at this point is useless. Al qaeda’s reach and strength is at an all time high and growing quickly! The question is what is to be done NOW. What’s the plan? There is a real possibility that ISIS can take Baghdad! Soon! Ironically, in this case Washington may have similar interests with Tehran.

  • John says:

    I blame Obama because he didn’t sincerely engage the Iraqi government towards a status of forces agreement which would have allowed us to keep a presence in the country rather than pulling out all forces and training Iraq’s forces in Jordon and providing Apache helicopters to their government. Proxy warfare is not a panacea, despite America’s current embrace of isolationism. What will occur after December 2016 in Afghanistan? Or Nigeria? Or in the Ukraine? Or the South China Sea? Is Demi Moore going to lead ST6 and save the day?

  • Alex says:

    Bill, what changed between now and three or four days ago when an attack on Mosul was repelled? Frankly, LWJ is the only news source that I trust on these matters and the fog of war in Iraq is pretty hard to see through (i.e.: is Ramadi cleared or not?).
    Some of you guys in the comments section are forgetting some key facts:
    1. Iraq was stabilized by 2009 and remained as such through 2011.
    2. Both top US and top Iraqi commanders warned about a pre-mature drawdown.
    3. Saying Iraq would be “better off” with a dictator ignores the military reality. What exactly would a strongman dictate with now? The Iraqi Security Forces lacks the helicopters, planes, heavy armor, and other equipment that it had in the past. Syria has a dictator and I’d hardly call them stable. The situation is much different than, say, Egypt, who has had a long tradition of US training and utilizing US equipment.
    Regardless of whether or not we should have invaded Iraq (I would argue that Saddam should have been removed but that’s another point), the fact is that we DID invade Iraq, and it’s in nobody’s interest to let the country fall apart. We didn’t need troops on street patrol in 2011 (US forces were out of major cities by 2009) and we don’t need them now–overt air support/drone support since the Iraqi Air Force is still extremely underdeveloped, and covert CIA/SOF support would be helpful. This would not require “trillions” of dollars.

  • Alex says:

    M3fd2002, well said.

  • . says:

    Is Baghdad next?

  • Mike E says:

    Leading from behind has been an abject fail. The Obama needs to rapidly change course on military/foreign policy or he will go down in history as the guy that took Bushes wins in Iraq and Afghanistan and turned them into losses. Libya will be a further black mark.

  • Michael McDowell says:

    This is quite the mess. ISIS have just taken Tikrit and have routed ( at establishment strength, not in reality) 2 Army Divisions plus police and other security forces out of the northwestern provinces in 2 days
    Maliki has no plan B and evidently no army with which to implement plan B either. He has 1 x F16, albeit in Texas not Iraq.
    This is the permanent partition of Iraq unless a massive international intervention routs ISIS. There is no appetite for a dig out for Maliki…a man happy to be interim Iraqi PM ad nauseum with no negotiated government but with only a partial mandate absent such a government.
    0.5m fresh refugees chased out by max 2000 nutters in only 2 days, jesus wept and ran out of tissues long ago 🙁

  • blert says:

    The idea that Iraqis were begging America to leave is absurd.
    In foreign affairs there are always two games running:
    1) The public face — the postures that the nations put forth that fill domestic political needs and which make the government involved look pretty decent internationally. (with exceptions)
    2) The hidden face — the REAL wheeling and dealing that the parties don’t dare expose as the very wheeling and dealing exposes the players to embarrassments/ climb downs/ concessions/ and give ups that can only be ‘sold’ after the whole bundle is negotiated.
    Further, many, many deals involve secret side deals (concessions or dirty side deals ) that the players never want to see exposed.
    (e.g. The Stalin-Hitler non-aggression pact. True double-speak: it initiated WWII in Europe — even setting the start date as September 1, 1939. It took a revolution and President Yeltsin to expose the full text of the deal. Did you know that the two tyrants had agreed to invade Poland on the first of September? Stalin deliberately delayed his attack so that the full onus would drop on Adolf. It worked.)
    Which brings us back to Baghdad.
    The public face of Maliki was that he wanted the Americans to go.
    The hidden (true) face of Maliki was that he really, really wanted the Americans to stay on, he just couldn’t hold such a position publicly.
    Further, Maliki wanted to extend the legal protections for Americans the same old way: by Iraqi Executive Order. — That is, his own pen. That deal was on 0bama’s desk for months on end.
    0bama rejected it. He wanted the Iraqi legislature to pass a bill. (which had never happened under Bush) Because of the factions in the legislature, there was NO WAY that such a bill would have ever been passed. Indeed, Maliki’s own coalition would’ve fractured over the issue.
    What 0bama wanted went against all Arab political tradition. In that part of the world, foreign relations are exclusively vested in the Big Man.
    But, 0bama knew all of this.
    The public image of the White House was that the ball was in Iraq’s court.
    The hidden reality of the White House was that Barry wanted out in a way that dropped the blame on the Other Guy.
    This last bit is classic politics 101.
    Stalin got the world to blame Hitler for what he (Stalin) wanted to do.
    0bama got the American public to not blame him for racing out of Iraq.
    It’s worked.
    AQ has publicly distanced itself from ISIL/ ISIS. Why?
    Because this Sunni offensive would’ve HAD to be labelled an AQ surge.
    Such a surge would’ve impeached all of 0bama’s claims to have won the war on AQ.
    The difference between ISIS and AQ is nil.
    BTW, no small amount of the weapons being deployed in Iraq by ISIS have been funded by Qatar for the express purpose of deposing Assad. Look how it’s playing out.

  • John R says:

    As a UK resident I know the real threat will come once ISIS turns its attention back to Syria. If the US and UK continues to support the ‘rebels’ against Assad. It is clear who will fill the vacuum should he fall. It is also clear that the cities of Europe will be within a cheap charter flight reach, via Turkey, and at the mercy of Al Queda bombs. Why support the ‘rebellion?’ Because we seem to be doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia and Isreal who still see Iran as a bigger bogeyman. They rightly believe the resultant terror and carnage is likely to play out in the cities of Europe at least in the short term.

  • Mike says:

    Apparently the Iraqi security forces learned how to stand and defend from Bergdahl.

  • M3fd2002 says:
    Looks like Al-Douri is in the mix. His crew is by far the most competent force in this fight.


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