Mosul, Iraq's Second-Biggest City, Has Been Seized By Insurgents
Rebels believed to be members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda group, attacked and took control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, late Monday. Iraqi soldiers and police fled on foot, some stripping their uniforms off, as the governor's office, the airport, television stations, police stations, and banks were taken over, not to mention the prisons — hundreds of prisoners have been freed.
This has prompted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to call for a state of emergency, asking other countries for help without naming any one in particular. He is also calling for volunteer soldiers to battle against this group further taking Iraq, promising to supply the weapons.
Thousands upon thousands of Mosul civilians left after an assault by the same group on Friday, which proved to be fruitful for the ISIS, as they managed to take over numerous neighborhoods. But as of late Monday, the government utterly collapsed. Osama Nujaifi, the speaker of parliament, says Mosul is now in the hands of the militants, including the prisons and the airport — which is a huge hub for U.S. military — and this is a threat to the entire region.
During a news conference in Baghdad, which was televised, he said: "When the battle got tough in the city of Mosul, the troops dropped their weapons and abandoned their posts, making it an easy prey for the terrorists."
When asking the country's parliament to declare a state of emergency, al-Maliki said: "This will require all efforts, both civilian and official, to confront this ferocious attack that harms all Iraqis, from a deteriorating security situation to a humanitarian crisis.
What's startling is the troops that fled were trained by American troops. It's been more than two years since American military troops left Iraq, and Mosul was one of the last areas to be tamed prior to leaving. This takeover is significant, especially since Mosul is a main hub for the oil industry and it's likely only adding to the fire that's fueling the ISIS to attack other parts of Iraq and continue to build on the war in Syria. Now that Mosul has been taken, the ISIS will likely threaten nearby regions, including Kirkuk, which is rich in oil.
Charles Lister from the Doha Brookings Center in Qatar says this group will likely position themselves to attack additional parts of Iraq. Lister also warns that if the U.S. continues to supply weaponry to Maliki, they will likely continue to fall in the wrong hands. Lister says:
Washington will be questioning how to move forward in terms of supporting the Iraqi army in its fight against terrorism. Every time ISIS captures territory, it's a reminder that it does so using weapons that have fallen into the hands of the forces the U.S. is trying to counter in the first place.