The 36th Brigade of the Iraqi Army’s 9th division lost seven men over the course of three days fighting ISIS in west Mosul. As they fought to take back the city building by agonizing building, they were so battered and bruised that none celebrated when they made gains.
The battle for Mosul is being won with blood far more than it is with tactics or skill. With ISIS now surrounded, they cannot replace their dead and that is the main reason they will lose. But they have prepared for this last stand, surrounding themselves with terrified civilians, IEDs and firing positions that they are able to move between without being seen or hit.
Time and again, ISIS-held buildings were shelled relentlessly only to be the source of sniper fire soon afterward. The trapped civilians of course cannot move around, so when this is finally over, we’ll learn how many of them have died in the rubble of their homes or as they desperately tried to escape. The number will certainly be in the thousands.
The city will be liberated, but the recovery will take decades.
This segment originally aired June 21, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.