The forces of the Islamic State overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a stunningly swift victory in June 2014. After a nine month long offensive to retake the city, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, recently declared that Mosul had been liberated. During the struggle to retake the city, it is estimated that thousands of civilians were killed. The exact number may never be known because many of the bodies lie buried in the rubble of wrecked buildings.
According to UN sources, approximately 200,000 people have had their homes destroyed. About 900,000 of the city’s two million residents were displaced during the Islamic State takeover, occupation and subsequent fighting to retake the city. Approximately 700,000 remained displaced or homeless at the time Mosul was freed from the clutches of the Islamic State. The amount of physical destruction is massive. Mosul’s university has been almost completely destroyed, many historic sites no longer exist and vast tracts of the older part of the city lie in ruin.
The reconstruction effort will be a slow process. It is estimated to cost between $50 billion and $100 billion to restore the areas in Iraq the Islamic State once controlled. The Iraqi government, vexed by sectarian differences, a fair amount of corruption and a shortage of funds, is seeking reconstruction aid from international donors. To complicate matters, some analysts expect to see a return to the low-level of insurgency that was underway before the Islamic State forces captured Mosul. Due to the funding and insurgency problems, the residents of Mosul are in for a long and sometimes dangerous rebuilding effort. Given the dismal record of the squabbling Iraqi politicians in Baghdad, the opportunity for political reconciliation between the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions offered by the expulsion of the Islamic State is expected to be mostly wasted. The end of American support to Iraq is regrettably nowhere in sight.