By Mustafa al-Kadhimi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The year 2015 saw the liberation of several areas of Salahuddin (Tikrit) and Anbar (Ramadi – pictured) provinces from the grasp of the Islamic State with operations toward that end ongoing.
Yet, to date no serious reconstruction projects have been undertaken in those liberated areas, as the Iraqi government is faced with a difficult challenge — eradicating terrorism not only requires military effort, but also mobilization aimed at rehabilitating the residents before the area’s infrastructure can be rebuilt.
Mosul fell on June 10, 2014, after a surprise attack by IS and the withdrawal of the Iraqi army and other security forces from the city. IS subsequently continued to rapidly advance toward Baghdad, and in a matter of days gained control of areas adjoining the capital, approximately 40-60 kilometers (25-37 miles) away, in Salahuddin province in the north and Anbar province in the west.
IS’ thrust came to a halt only after large numbers of volunteers, such as the Popular Mobilization Units, joined the ranks of the security forces to combat IS, following a fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on June 13, 2014. In September 2014, IS began a gradual retreat from occupied areas as a result of the aerial campaign that was initiated the month before by the US-led military coalition.
In 2015, IS experienced a major setback in Iraq, where it lost control of key cities and large swaths of land, among them Tikrit, liberated in March, Sinjar, freed in November, and Ramadi, where Iraqi forces are currently routing IS out of its last strongholds, on Dec. 28.
Areas in Iraq occupied by IS suffered extensive damage to infrastructure, the local economy and private property, with the Parliamentary Services Committee estimating a total of $25 billion in damages up to April 2015.