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The Fight for Mosul

Why It's Taking Longer Than Expected

A member of the Iraqi rapid response forces inspects a hospital damaged by a battle between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in the Wahda district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 2017. Alaa al-Marjani / REUTERS

As the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) stretches into its fourth month, the Iraqi army has won applause from the far corners of the globe. U.S. Brigadier General Rick Uribe said the Iraqi forces are “at their peak” and “will continue to improve because of the lessons they are learning on a daily basis.” Nevertheless, the battle is expected to last many more months.

AN ISIS STRONGHOLD

In June 2014, ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city in the north, sending shock waves around the world. Within days, four Iraqi army divisions and police forces in four provinces collapsed, leaving ISIS in control of one-third of Iraq. Millions of civilians were displaced, and Christians were forced to leave. Within a month, ISIS would gain control of one-third of Syria as well and would declare an Islamic caliphate, the dream of every Islamist extremist. Soon ISIS was

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