The Human Cost of Retaking Mosul

MIN READOct 22, 2016 | 13:45 GMT

As the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State continues, civilians are fleeing from the city by the hundreds, further stressing the already tenuous humanitarian situation in northern Iraq. The Islamic State has displaced millions of Iraqis over the course of its occupation. The operation to oust the militant group from Mosul could displace a million more.


Iraqi and Kurdish forces will very likely prevail in their battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, but their victory will come at a high political and humanitarian cost. In ousting the militant group, the operation in Mosul could raise Iraq's civilian casualty rate -- the third-highest in the world behind those of Syria and Yemen -- because of the large number of civilians who remain in the city. At the same time, the civilian presence will slow the advance of the coalition fighting to retake Mosul, which hopes to minimize collateral damage. Though many of Mosul's roughly 750,000 residents will remain trapped in the city, where the Islamic State will use the civilian presence as a shield to discourage airstrikes, hundreds of thousands of others will seek refuge elsewhere. But in a region already overwhelmed with displaced people from an array of conflicts, refuge will be hard to...

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