Three years ago, on June 10, 2014, around 1,500 fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured Iraq's second-largest city, routing out a numerically superior defending force. The alarm caused by the city's capture traveled well beyond Baghdad, resonating among Western powers that had been fighting in Iraq only three years prior to the toppling of Mosul. On June 29, 2014, ISIL spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced the founding of an Islamic caliphate. The following month, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — leader of the Islamic State, as the organization came to be known — gave a victory address from the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul.
On June 21 of this year, the site of al-Baghdadi's triumphant address, which had stood for almost 850 years, was destroyed by the Islamic State as the hard-fought offensive to retake Mosul from the militant group entered its final stages. The reason was simple: To keep Iraqi security forces from claiming a symbolic victory. It is a dark time for the once-powerful militant organization. Al-Adnani is dead, killed in an airstrike in Syria in 2016; Baghdadi's whereabouts is currently unknown; and the noose is tightening on the remaining Islamic State bastion (the town of Raqqa) in Syria. The battle for Mosul is a significant milestone for Iraq and the global coalition seeking to quash the jihadist threat in the country, but it is not the end of the road.
Though the fight to eradicate the remnants of the Islamic State is ongoing, it is important to take stock of what has been achieved over the past nine months. Stratfor has closely tracked the operation to retake Mosul, which began mid-October, 2016, and in this visual anthology, we explore the effect of the fighting on the city, its inhabitants and the security forces responsible for its liberation.