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Pyrrhic victory? Iraq declares war against ISIS over, but at what cost

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“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against ISIS,” al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad Saturday. The Iraqi military confirmed combat operations over, and that Iraq has been “totally liberated” from the terrorist group.


Destroyed buildings are seen in the city of Sinjar © Raya Jalab / Reuters

The announcement came some six months after the Iraqi Army and its allied militias recaptured Mosul, a major Iraqi city which served as Islamic State’s major stronghold. In November, Iraqi forces seized Rawah, the last town held by the jihadists.

While announcing the victory over IS, al-Abadi boasted that Iraq “triumphed in little time” over the “enemy [that] wanted to kill our civilization.” However, the situation in the country remains dire and the future of the Middle Eastern state unclear.

Just a month ago, the PM revealed that the damage caused by IS’ occupation of Iraq’s northern territories “already amounts to more than $100 billion.” The pseudo-caliphate seized around a third of Iraqi territory in a sweeping 2014 advance, and held on for almost three years.

Irreparable losses

The war against Islamic State turned into a massive human tragedy for the Iraqi people. According to official estimatesfrom the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, more than 29,000 civilians were killed between January 2014 and November 2017. Iraq Body Count Project (IBC), an internet based activist group recording civilian deaths in Iraq, put the death toll resulting from IS atrocities and various combat operations over the same period at 66,737.

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