Abstract: The defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul represents an important turning point in the recent history of Iraq. Psychologically, the Abadi government will be emboldened by this event, but despite this success, there are daunting challenges remaining in Iraq. Repatriating refugees, rebuilding Mosul, creating a functioning security structure to prevent the emergence of similar terror groups, and bridging differences among domestic Iraqi groups all have to be achieved by the Iraqi government at a time of low oil prices. The proposed referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) adds another challenge for the central government in Baghdad. The end of the control of Iraqi territory by a terrorist organization is a big relief, and now the country can direct all of its attention and efforts towards the basic services that its citizens need. However, political rivalries among different figures and fragmented parties also add to the challenges ahead. The possibility of including Kirkuk in the proposed independence referendum and the addition of Popular Mobilizations Units (PMU) to Iraq’s security structures are other potentially explosive topics.
On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi visited Mosul to congratulate Iraqi forces for their success in taking back control of the city in an operation that started last fall. With the defeat of IS in Mosul, another short chapter in the history of Iraq came to an end. This development, however, represents an important success for the Abadi government in Iraq. Despite delays in the declared program of advances into Mosul and the huge destruction in the western part of the city, the end of IS control in Iraq’s second-largest city represents a milestone in tackling the country’s security challenges.
Over three years ago, IS captured Mosul and declared a new state (caliphate) at the Great Mosque of al-Nouri. The capture of Mosul by IS and subsequent advances toward Erbil and Baghdad were a big shock and led to the formation of an international coalition to defeat IS, given the failure of the Iraqi government to do this on its own. Despite the fact that some chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory is still under the control of IS, the loss of Mosul and advances against Raqqa signal that the existence of IS as a territorial entity is nearing its end. The present task of the Iraqi government, along with liberating the remaining territories, is to build the necessary environment to prevent a resurgence of IS and address the problems experienced by cities and towns liberated from IS rule.