“We need to think about the people of Mosul and Ninewa Plain, not on their behalf. How will ‘liberation’ effect them?” poignantly stated a member of the Ninewa Provincial Council. Members of this council in addition to military leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, and Peshmerga, diplomats, international aid community members, and representatives of various Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ministries all met at MERI on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 to discuss the issues surrounding the liberation of Mosul and the Ninewa Province from the Islamic State (IS).
Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, has been occupied by IS for over two years. Additionally, many of the surrounding villages in the Ninewa Province have been evacuated or occupied by IS. The Peshmerga have slowly been liberating some of these villages in pursuit of the main target, the city of Mosul itself. There will be multiple parties coordinating militarily to achieve this goal.
The hard questions about the military liberation operations, as well as post-liberation conditions and procedures, must be asked and answered before the allied forces move on Iraq’s second city. This event was planned to bring that discussion to the fore, and provide a platform for some of the parties involved to speak openly about their concerns and visions.
The attendees and speakers did just that. Many voiced their concerns about administrative and political issues that existed before the fall of Mosul and will be key to ensuring stability upon its liberation. Moreover, there was a focus on the minorities in the region and seeking justice for the crimes committed against them by their neighbours.
The aid community noted that the military operations are likely to create a massive wave of displacement for which it will need further preparations in order to support those that may number up to a million people, of which the majority will move towards the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Others spoke specifically about their concerns with the military operations. IS has had two years to entrench itself in these areas, and therefore a shift in warfare strategies will be necessary. The main theme uniting all of the concerns expressed on this day was that a return to past conditions, before the fall of Mosul, would only prolong the instability there and not allow for the return of many of the groups that fled the region. Instead, thorough plans must be made now, including all actors, and agreed upon before major military operations inside the city of Mosul begin.
Participants in the seminar maintained that there is need for a vision, or grand strategy for Mosul and the Ninewa Province. International partners and KRG representatives voiced support for the people of Ninewa, and advocated for them to take the lead and give direction to the coalition of actors responsible for their liberation and protection. Part of that will mean a final agreement between the KRG and Central Government on the administration and protection of the newly liberated areas.