Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Services (ICTS) advance towards the Yabasat neighbourhood in West Mosul on March 23. Photo: AFP
As Iraqi forces continues to advance against ISIS militants in West Mosul, their defeat is inevitable, which raises the salient question about Iraq's readiness and preparation for administrating the city after the militants’ removal.
Analysts on Iraq, while worried, do believe there are some glimmers of hope that the city can be substantially stabilized after it’s completely pried from the caliphate's grip.
“There are no real plans, it is all improvisation at the moment. Resources are being thrown piecemeal at needs as they become available,” said Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute and noted Iraq analyst.
“A patchwork of road, water and electricity reconstruction is evident,” he added.
When asked if Baghdad will be able to secure, stabilize and rebuild Mosul long-term after ISIS's removal Knights responded in the affirmative, but added that “the long-term is a long way away.”
Dylan O'Driscoll, a former analyst the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) think-tank in Erbil who now works at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) at the University of Manchester, warned of ill-planning before the Mosul operation began. Political timetables in both Baghdad and Washington saw both powers overlook the importance of anticipating how to deal with the long-term situation in Mosul, as opposed to just the immediate military task of removing the militants.
Before the beginning of the operation last October he wrote a report on Mosul and the future of the wider Nineveh region published by MERI which outlined the shortcomings of current plans, or lack thereof, for that area’s future. O'Driscoll compared this to the poor post-conflict planning following the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, and the instability which subsequently plagued the country ever since, and warned that if Mosul's “liberation is devoid of long-term planning it will likely result in the resurfacing of a number of issues responsible for the rise of ISIS in Iraq in the first place.”
“I still share the same concerns I had when my report on the future of Nineveh was published before the military campaign began last year,” O'Driscoll told Rudaw English. “I don't see adequate preparation for the governance of the province post-ISIS and the necessary institutional restructuring is widely being ignored.
“At the same time, there is very little development of coordinated localized security solutions allowing for the long-term security of the province. On the development side, things are also moving slow, particularly with regards to restarting the economy.”
O'Driscoll fears that a combination of these factors will see Nineveh quickly “becoming a geopolitical playground where multiple entities are competing for influence.”
He does nevertheless see some positive indicators for the future of the region.
“The resilience of the local people has been immensely impressive and in my opinion Haider al-Abadi has grown as a leader,” O'Driscoll concluded.
Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst who runs the Musings on Iraq blog, is also anxious about the city's future. However, he already sees some positive developments on the city's east side, which was completely recaptured in January.
“When east Mosul was freed some residents started complaining that they were not getting any help from the government to rebuild,” Wing said. “Nineveh officials told the press that they had a plan for reconstruction as well as Baghdad. Now that tune has changed. Nineveh officials admit that they are working on a plan right now, but they say there's no money for it.”
Wing says this is a huge problem given the fact that “Mosul is such a large city with so many needs.”
“East Mosul has some areas there were heavily damaged, but most of it looks pretty good, and already some services are being restored slowly,” he added. “The west however looks pretty devastated. If there's not a serious rebuilding plan that could cost Baghdad the support it has won from the residents for liberating them.”
Wing also points out that stabilizing and rebuilding Mosul is a process which will have to “include a large security component.”
“The contracts have to be policed and investigated because the Islamic State is going to try to exploit them to raise money and rebuild,” he concluded.