Too Big to Recover: Mosul Enters Second Year Under ISIS Rule

Locals Complain Iraq Seems Disinterested in Retaking City

This time last year, the world was expressing shock with the news that ISIS had successfully captured the major city of Mosul. Iraq’s second-largest city, the fall of Mosul was a huge blow to Iraqi military morale, and played a big role in US and Iranian officials deciding the join the fight to “save” Iraq.

Retaking Mosul was the top priority then, and as summer gave way to autumn, it was pushed back to a “spring offensive.” A year in, the promises haven’t led to a single effort to retake the city at all, and some locals believe Iraq isn’t that interested in recovering their city at all.

It’s not that Mosul isn’t a valuable prize, of course. Rather, it’s that Mosul is such a big city, and Iraq’s military has struggled mightily with much smaller and less defended targets. Retaking cities like Tikrit and Baiji have become “priorities” because they’re at least attainable.

With Iraq unable to even keep the city of Ramadi from falling to ISIS, mustering a counteroffensive to retake Mosul is just not realistic. The official promises to retake Ramadi, which is more conveniently located near Baghdad and more easily reached by the military, still haven’t amounted to more than a stalemate outside the city.

Mosul residents were waiting for their turn to by “deliberated” to come last year, but at this point are resigned to the reality that their turn may not be coming at all, as their city is simply too big for Iraq’s bungling military to even think about retaking.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of