Although Islamic State (IS) fighters in western Mosul are cornered within a steadily shrinking area that is expected to be retaken soon, analysts warn that the fight against the group in the country is far from over.
Hisham al-Hashimi, one of Iraq’s most widely respected security and terrorism experts, told Al-Monitor that the transnational terrorist group “has not yet fought at its maximum strength” and has left only a “hindering” force in Mosul, which was previously known as the group’s capital in Iraq.
He claims that many IS members are unknown by name to Iraqi intelligence and that documents found in recaptured areas of Mosul show that IS’ “hidden” men are referred to in their own records using only numbers and no names, making it likely that many have simply melted into the population and will not be flagged during screening procedures.
Moreover, in commenting on an Iraqi military announcement in mid-April that IS currently held less than 7% of the country — down from an estimated 40% in 2014 — Hashimi scoffed, noting that “this is only counting the populated areas. They actually still hold 18% of it.”
“This is important,” he stressed, since “they still hold Hawija, as well as Tal Afar, Al-Baaj,” and the cities of Rawa, Anah and Qaim in the western Anbar province.
“We don’t have enough forces to fight in Hawija. Until we recapture all of Mosul and Tal Afar, we can’t go back to Hawija,” he said, adding that “Hawija is a difficult area due to its agricultural characteristics and the fact that it is a stronghold for militants. Fighters who have fled from the Diyala, Salahuddin and Kirkuk provinces are there.”