Annie Slemrod – Middle East Editor – With additional reporting by Ben Parker (IRIN)
The failure in Fallujah – And how lessons must be learnt for Mosul (JERUSALEM/LONDON)
As the Iraqi military announced (not for the first time) that it had finally routed the so-called Islamic State in Fallujah, the city’s former residents can be forgiven for not breathing a collective sigh of relief.
It’s the worst-kept secret in warfare that the battle to seize back Mosul from so-called Islamic State is almost upon us.
Arguably, the offensive is already under way. For several weeks, Iraqi forces, backed by an international coalition, have been tightening the noose around Iraq’s second city. When the much smaller Iraqi city of Fallujah was taken back from IS in June, the humanitarian response was widely and rightly panned: assistance was late and woefully inadequate, even on tents. With 10 times as many civilians at risk in Mosul, IRIN’s Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod took a long, hard look at preparations this time around. She found that access to the region was better and that there were certainly a lot more agencies and NGOs involved in the Mosul operation. But serious challenges remain, in particular finding enough land for camps and for tents to be pitched. Senior aid industry figures assured her that everything possible was being done. However the reality is stark: no amount of planning can prepare you for the exodus of up to one million desperate civilians in a matter of days.