Militants Overrun Iraq’s Second-Largest City As Government Forces Flee

Wall Street Journal – by ALI A. NABHAN And MATT BRADLEY

BAGHDAD—Al Qaeda-inspired militants seized control of Iraq’s second-largest city on Tuesday in a brazen military operation that underscored the weakness of the Baghdad government across vast swaths of the country.

Hours after government forces fled Mosul in disarray following four days of fighting, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a nationwide “state of maximum preparedness” but didn’t indicate whether government forces were mobilizing to retake the Iraqi city, 220 miles north of the capital Baghdad.  

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the capture of Mosul, the scene of major fighting between al Qaeda and U.S. troops and Iraqi forces during the nearly nine-year American presence in the country.

But videos point to rebels aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. They show victorious insurgents waving black flags emblazoned with an Islamic script, which that are brandished by al Qaeda militants world-wide.

Residents of Mosul said they were shocked at the ease of the rebel takeover of government buildings, television stations and military installations where U.S.-supplied fighter airplanes, helicopters and other heavy weaponry are based.

“The whole of Mosul collapsed today. We’ve fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we’re looking for God’s mercy,” said Mahmoud Al Taie, a dentist. “We are waiting to die.”

The seizure of Mosul is the latest evidence of the weakness and disorganization that have beset Iraq’s security forces since the U.S. forces withdrew from the country in December 2011.

If the involvement of ISIS is confirmed, it also would underline the group’s determination to establish an Islamic emirate encompassing the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, weaken the already fragile Iraqi state and expand the theater of Syria’s three-year-old civil war.

“ISIS is designing its campaign around the state that it believes it has already created,” said Jessica Lewis, a former U.S. military intelligence officer.

“I think that means that Iraq is going to start to look more like Syria. It’s a gauge of the severity of the conflict and the trajectory that it’s on. That’s a very bad sign,” said Ms. Lewis, currently research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C.

The U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi security forces, which have floundered since the U.S. pullout, haven’t succeeded in thwarting ISIS’s emergence as a formidable military force. Its fighters regularly launch daytime attacks against government forces and have held the city of Fallujah, 36 miles east of the capital, since early January.

Write to Matt Bradley at

5 thoughts on “Militants Overrun Iraq’s Second-Largest City As Government Forces Flee

  1. Man, I’m so glad we spent trillions of taxpayers dollars to get rid of Saddam Hussein for no reason and to free the people of Iraq in order to install a Western backed government because it is going so well over there these days. (sarcasm)

    1. What you said, plus… Gee, these militants sure seem to be well funded. They must be farming opium when they aren’t pretending to be Islamic holy warriors….

      Speaking of holy wars, if you believe that stealing other’s land and killing them in the process is okay because “g_d” promised your “race” the land, isn’t that the truest definition of Jihad?

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  3. We have been training the Iraqi Army on our M1 tanks for several years. They have hundreds of them in their Army now. The Iraqis abandoned their military equipment during the assault on Mosul. My guess is that alqaeda now is in possession of a few hundred M1 tanks as well as other high tech gear. Will those tanks be used in Syria now?

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