Post 21: Mosul After Liberation: A Plan to Rebuild the Ancient City and Ensure US National Security

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An Iraqi security forces sniper fires at ISIS militants during the battle of Mosul. (Reuters, Zohra Bensemra).

In June 2014, Islamic State (ISIS) extremists seized control of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, sending residents fleeing for safety and crippling Iraqi forces.

After taking control of the city, ISIS implemented strict social rules and laws, including draconian restrictions on women’s conduct in public, constant surveillance by police, physical punishment for cell-phone use and execution for the slightest hint of seditious behavior.

Additionally, standard items and services for human subsistence, such as food and public utilities, were in short supply. Once in power, ISIS offered rations to those who cooperated with the group. For others, essential services were only sporadically available- depending on how well residents complied with the group’s authority.

Three years later, and after nine months of violent conflict, the Iraqi army has liberated Mosul from ISIS control. Once the government announced the victory, Iraqis sounded their joy and celebrated the return of their ancient city. “By our souls and blood, we sacrifice for you, Iraq!” was openly declared with national fervor.

But there is still work to be done- small pockets of resistance remain in the city- and Mosul must be rebuilt after three years of destructive ISIS rule.

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ISIS militants in Mosul. (Scout.com).

During Mosul’s reconstruction, the US must address ISIS-related national security concerns- at home and in the Middle East- with strategies like targeted economic investment, promoting a Sunni and Shiite coalition and continued military assistance.

Perhaps most important to US national security is the exercise of American ‘soft power’, or economic investment in the rebuild of Mosul. Nine months of combat between the Iraqi army and ISIS has left the city in ruins, forcing over 900,000 people to flee Mosul and killing thousands of residents.

The level of destruction in Mosul requires reconstructive and preventative economic stimulus- similar in concept, but not in scope, to the Marshall Plan after World War II – that rebuilds the city’s infrastructure and invalidates ISIS recruitment efforts of young Iraqis.

For example, congress should appropriate money to restore local infrastructure, such as public utilities, that were destroyed during the conflict. This injection of capital would provide sorely needed public services, and vocational alternatives for Iraqis who may otherwise fall to promises of radicalized employment and salvation by ISIS.

Stimulus funds must also be used to rebuild Mosul’s schools. Of the thousands who fled the city in 2014, many were young students whose academic careers were placed on hold. To put them back on track, the US must fund the repair of Mosul’s school system, and provide its students with a safe place to continue their studies.

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Children in Mosul during school. (english.alarabiya.net).

Perhaps more importantly, Mosul’s schools are a preventative measure against ISIS recruitment. During its control of Mosul, ISIS frequently indoctrinated young Iraqis to their cause- sometimes forcing them to witness beheadings- and taught combat techniques to children as young as eight.  To end child recruitment by ISIS, Mosul students must return to school to build a future with choices apart from radicalization.

In addition to economic stimulus, the US should take steps to resolve sectarian conflict in Mosul. Past abuses by Shiite-backed government forces against Sunni residents created tension in the city before ISIS gained control. For the US, creating unity between the groups means a stronger local government, and impedes ISIS from recruiting dispossessed Sunni residents.

Lastly, US forces must play a significant role in rebuilding Mosul and ensuring the eradication of ISIS. While Iraqi forces bared most of the fighting in Mosul, they also benefitted from American airstrikes and ground assistance. The cooperation of Iraqi and American forces must endure to successfully rebuild Mosul, and to protect US national security interests by continuing to destroy ISIS.

Since the Marshall Plan was implemented to rebuild war-torn Europe, American national security has used ‘soft’ and military power to secure our country against foreign threats. That said, the rebuilding of Mosul presents a significant opportunity to ensure US national security by stabilizing the city and continuing to fight ISIS.

Indeed, Mosul’s rebuild might be the best chance, in recent times, to protect US national security interests by defeating ISIS and building Iraq into a strategic geopolitical partner in the ever-troublesome Middle East.

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