The entire city of Mosul has been retaken from ISIS, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced from the war-torn city Monday. Iraq’s leader says national forces backed by a US-led coalition retook the city of Mosul after more than three years of ISIS rule.
Now Iraqis are facing the daunting task of what to do with their historic city, much of it reduced to rubble and still at threat of ISIS attacks. Iraqi forces planted a national flag on the banks of the Tigris River in Mosul’s Old City to declare their victory.
The victory marks an end to a nine-month operation, which began with fighters of different ethnic and religious foundations making a coordinated push toward the city as US-led airstrikes helped pave their way. Soon, Iraqi officials and the residents of Mosul, as well as their US allies, will need to start looking at a long and challenging to-do list.
Rebuilding a city torn to shreds
Once it is clear Iraqi forces can hold the city, they will have to start thinking about how to rebuild it. Very few civilians remain in the area — there is simply nowhere for them to live — but some were seen trying to return, even visiting the ruins of the Al-Nuri Mosque, which was blown up by ISIS last month.
Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said that there was no time to waste in beginning social and physical reconstruction. “The first challenge facing the Iraqi government and international organizations is to provide basic necessities of life for more than 400,000 Iraqis who have been displaced from the western part of Mosul, which mostly lies in ruins,” Gerges told CNN. He estimated that rebuilding the Old City alone would cost $1 billion. In some parts of Mosul, residents have begun to return from displacement camps to think about rebuilding. CNN drove through some of these areas, and saw signs of life returning to normal — traffic on the roads and chickens being sold in makeshift markets.