Revenge rears its ugly head in Mosul

Strategy Page notes that we can expect a wave of revenge attacks in Mosul, Iraq, recently liberated from ISIL control.

Many families from Mosul, both those who fled and those who stayed to the end, are demanding that the families of Iraqis who joined ISIL or worked for them must be punished. This is a tricky situation because most of the suspects are Iraqi Sunni Arabs, many from prominent Mosul families and clans. Because some 900,000 people (nearly have the Mosul population) stayed in the city there are plenty of witnesses to the many locals who, because of belief, greed or fear, worked for ISIL. Many of the survivors know that well-connected (from prominent families) and wealthy (often from doing business with or for ISIL) will be able to bribe their way out of any prosecution and punishment. So there will be a lot of murders and disappearances (because of murder or slipping away into exile) in the next month or so.

The list of avengers is long and includes many non-Moslems (Christians, Yazidis and others) and non-Moslems (Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and so on). Many members of the army and commandos who liberated Mosul had lost family (and now soldiers) and not all of them were able to refrain from instant vengeance on captured ISIL men. Since this sort of thing has happened so many times in the past there is a certain informal protocol that is observed. For a brief period the incoming security forces will ignore the revenge killings but after a few months the vengeance will be drifting away from punishment towards extortion and other gangster motivation. So by the end of the year Mosul will settle down to its usual simmer of angry religious, ethnic, tribal and political feuds.

This will be a time when many secrets can be revealed because of the chaos and desperation. Experienced intel operatives, both foreign and local, know this. The American Special Forces specializes in making the most of situations like this. It’s like a brief flash of light in a dark cave of secrets. Yet few of the secrets will be particularly shocking because this routine has played out in this area so many times over the last few thousand years. This time the difference is the impact of mass media and the movement of so many foreign volunteers to ISIL and the dispersal of ISIL survivors back to their homelands. Groups like ISIL have been a feature of local life for over a thousand years but exporting that form of madness to the non-Moslem world is a new angle. Another novel feature is the large number of landmines and explosive devices rigged to explode when disturbed that have been left behind. ISIL hid away lots of weapons, ammo and explosives. All this stuff will keep the death toll from the Battle of Mosul increasing for years to come.

There’s more at the link.

I’m informed by some friends over in that part of the world that the Yazidis in general, and Yazidi women in particular, are particularly ruthless and vengeful in their attitude.  After all, ISIL tried to exterminate the Yazidis root and branch, massacring their men and children, and forcing their women into sex slavery.  Many of the women escaped from their captors, and have formed their own armed units to fight back against ISIL (including an entire battalion fighting alongside Kurdish forces).  One contact tells me that when Yazidi women find an ISIL fighter, the results are, as he puts it, “usually long-drawn-out and messy” for the latter unfortunate.  One is inevitably reminded of Kipling’s famous dictum . . .

Austin Bay also points out that there are valuable urban warfare lessons to be learned from the fight to liberate Mosul.

“Mega-cities” — think Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, Berlin, Lagos, Cairo, Mumbai — are 21st century political, economic and infrastructure realities. Urban combat in a mega-city will occur.

Mosul has some of the features found in mega-cities. The U.S. and its allies should conduct thorough and candid after action assessments of Iraqi and coalition operations in the liberation of Mosul.

Food for thought, indeed.



  1. More this, I think:

    When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    So-oldier of the Queen!

  2. Yep, I expected to be directed to "The Young British Soldier" and not "The Female of the Species." That last stanza of the former fits in very well with the later.

  3. Why do we care what happens in any of these countries. If tomorrow, you woke up and discovered that the entire Islamic Crescent of countries had been vaporized by a meteor swarm, what negative impact would it have upon the rest of the world?

    Why are we there?

    If we "win", what does winning look like?

    How many more of ours do we have to sacrifice on this altar?

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