Mosul was conquered by Daesh forces in June 2014. The second most populated and important city in Iraq, the defense of Mosul, was at the time in the hands of the newly formed Iraqi Army. The disorganization and internal strife within these newly formed forces was so deep that in front of a full-fledged attack by Daesh forces and ex-Baath forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, the large Iraqi forces panicked and left the city. Half a million people escaped the Daesh forces, at a time when the city had almost 2 million inhabitants.
The suffering of the population was in fact just beginning. Almost everyone was taken by surprise before the immediate victory of the Daesh forces. The latter acquired three divisions worth of up-to-date American arms and munitions - including M1129 Stryker 120-mm mortars and at least 700 armored Humvee vehicles from the fleeing Iraqi army. The Turkish Consulate General in the city had to surrender with all its staff and families. They would remain hostage for almost four months in the hands of Daesh, to be freed later after long negotiations and bargaining. Daesh forces also looted the Central Bank.
Mosul was a very colorful cultural center in Iraq before the war, there used to be a Sunni Arab majority in urban areas, such as downtown Mosul west of the Tigris; across the Tigris and further north in the suburban areas, thousands of Assyrians, Kurds, Turkmens, Yazidis and Armenians made up the rest of Mosul's population. Most of the population was not happy with the administration of the Central Iraqi Government, supported by a Shiite militia. Nevertheless, the occupation by Daesh forces hurled the population of Mosul into a nightmare they never thought possible. Women have been sold as sex slaves, people have been executed without reason, all religious and ethnic groups have been deeply and mortally persecuted. Shrines and other holy places have been destroyed and profaned. The population cannot leave Mosul without the permission of Daesh representatives. Many have been killed trying to escape. Today, it is thought that a million and a half people still live in Mosul.
Since 2014, the Iraqi government has announced a number of counter-attacks that would take back the city. That has never happened. The peshmerga forces of the Northern Iraq Kurdistan region, loyal to Barzani, are the main armed force in the region, but they refuse to launch an attack all by themselves, due to their shortage of heavy armament and armored vehicles. The Iraqi Army, hastily reorganized and mostly made up of Shiite militias, is not inspiring much confidence in anyone in the region. Their former administration in the region left deep resentment among the population. However, getting rid of the Daesh occupation remains a primordial emergency. So the different countries with armed forces on the ground have been placing their first and foremost priority as the fight against Daesh.
This is great, there is perhaps 5,000 Daesh fighters being confined in the city. Their armament has become mostly useless because of the absence of spare parts and ammunition. But it is highly unlikely that they would retreat from their stronghold the way the Iraqi Army did back in 2014, without firing a single bullet. Up until now, Daesh has shown an acute sense of tactics regarding their fighting strategies.
Two major forces on the ground, besides the Iraqi Army, remain, the peshmerga and the Hashd al-Watani, Sunni Arab militia, trained and equipped by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) near Bashika. Already the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has created a lot of fuss concerning the possible participation of Turkish forces in the liberation of Mosul. On the other hand, General Bahram, in command of the peshmerga around Mosul, declared to French Daily Libération, that their cooperation with the TSK is "total and perfect." Coming from a Kurdish commander, the declaration is eloquent enough to show the intricate political maneuvers behind the Iraqi refusal of the Turkish presence.
The real problem is not perhaps a military victory of different forces over Daesh in Mosul. As declared to the international media by the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, "The United Nations is deeply concerned that in a worst-case scenario, the operation in Mosul could be the most complex and largest in the world in 2016, and we fear as many as 1 million civilians may be forced to flee their homes."
If a 100,000 people succeed in escaping Mosul, there is not enough infrastructure to host them. Beyond "heroic" declarations concerning Mosul Reconquista, looms the specter of yet another large-scale humanitarian disaster. This is definitely not the way to solve the problem of Iraq, nor ease the suffering of civilians.