After Fallujah And Manbij, What is Next?

Abdalaziz Alhamza “RBSS”

In May 23, the Iraqi joint forces launched Fallujah battle, which is one of ISIS strongholds in Anbar province. Thirty three days later, in the 26th of June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the liberation of Fallujah, raising the Iraqi flag inside the city and saying:”As promised, this is an Iraqi Flag held high in Fallujah. We did it earlier in Tikrit, Ramadi and Jurf Sakher and we will do it in Hawijah and Mosul.”
In the other side, the extremist group still holed up inside the Syrian city, Manbij. The city is totally surrounded by the Syrian Democratic Forces troops which are supported by the International Coalition warplanes and French-German military experts on the ground.

As to Brett McGurk, the envoy of the US president, the ongoing operations will set the conditions to start advancing toward Raqqa City, he said to the Foreign Relations Committee in the US senate:” The Manbij operation, it’s ongoing on right now, it’s hard fighting, once that is done, that sets the conditions for Raqqa.”. Perhaps ISIS does not want its supporters to notice its weakness, so the group is trying to entrench itself by trapping civilians as human shields in order to delay the coming defeat.

On the other hand, fears of what comes after ISIS still exists, especially after the bad experiment in Tel Abyad which is controlled by People’s Protection Units, the major party in the Syrian Democratic forces.
The Daily Beast news website questioned in a long report about the destinies of the city, and threw down the following questions: Who exactly will govern those towns now? Will it be the Kurds who have led the fight against ISIS? Or will it be what some in the Pentagon have privately called the “token Arabs” trained by the U.S. to accompany them?.

These questions are for the US administration, which has always turned a blind eye to the PYD known aspirations and the violations committed by these troops in several cities and towns. If PYD troops repeat these violations in Tel Abyad, Hasakah and their suburbs, sensitivities and sectarian tensions will increase and generate Arab-Kurdish protracted conflict.
Back to Iraq, the loss of Fallujah is one of the harshest blows received by ISIS since the declaration of the caliphate in 2014 and controlling wide territory in both Iraq and Syria. But the accompanying events to Fallujah liberation battle and the sectarian practices and declarations by Popular Mobilization Forces make the liberation incomplete. Civilians found themselves between ISIS’s hammer and the anvil of the sectarian militias. Cases of torture and abuse of the civilians will prove ISIS’s assumptions and repeated claims of being the defender of the Sunni Arabs.

Of course, the presence of Qassem Soleimani with the Popular Mobilization during this battle gave bad references and made this battle looks like a part of the Iranian attempts to control over the region especially after the American-Iranian agreement, which is considered by Obama as his most important achievement during his period of presidency.
Of course, attention will be directed towards Mosul, ISIS’s main stronghold in Iraq. Different challenges will face the Iraqi administrations and its American supporters, such as: securing more than one million Iraqi civilians who live in the city and meeting their humanitarian needs, and also keeping the sectarian militias, backed by Iran, far from the city because they consider all civilians to be terrorists and enemies even if they were women or children.
Air strikes, which have already started targeting ISIS locations, will not be enough; therefore the Iraqi forces will be in a serious test for their effectiveness. And we will see how serious and credible General Robert Otto’s statement is, in which he said:” The challenge is to find targets that we can strike where we’re not going to inadvertently damage civilians”.

These losses did not prevent ISIS from committing more terrorist attacks outside its borders; the most recent was the bombing of Ataturk Airport, which left more than 42 dead and 239 wounded. By this attack, ISIS wanted to deliver a message that expelling the group out of its controlled cities is not enough to declare victory.
In fact, launching raids over innocent civilians in Raqqa, Mosul and other cities will not defeat ISIS. In order to defeat the terrorist group you must first get rid of the causes that have helped ISIS to arise, injustice and tyranny.

media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".