After eight months of grueling street-to-street fighting, Iraq’s military announced it had captured the ruined mosque in Mosul where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of a so-called caliphate.
“Their fictitious state has fallen,” military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya announced Thursday, according to Reuters.
ISIS insurgents blew up the 850-year-old mosque and its famed minaret last week as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces gained ground in the Old City district. While several hundred militants still remain in the city in northern Iraq, the country’s authorities believe the symbolic blow will lead to an end of hostilities in the next several days.
The offensive to retake Mosul, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, began just a month before last year’s presidential election. U.S. forces played primarily a support role, while the Iraqi army, its elite counter-terrorism units, and the Kurdish Peshmerga took the lead.
A few weeks before the November U.S. presidential election, however, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump took an extremely critical stance against the campaign. First, he alleged the offensive was being organized by then-President Barack Obama’s administration “only” to undermine his campaign and therefore to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton win:
“But you know who the big winner in Mosul is going to be after we eventually get it? And the only reason they did it is because she’s running for the office of president and they want to look tough. They want to look good. He violated the red line in the sand, and he made so many mistakes, made all the mistakes. That’s why we have the great migration. But she wanted to look good for the election. So they’re going in.”
A week later, he condemned the operation, which had just begun, as a “total disaster” that was making the U.S. appear “so dumb.”
In campaign rallies and debates, Trump repeatedly slammed military and civilian commanders who handled the campaign for failing to capitalize on the “element of surprise” by announcing their intention to take Mosul ahead of time. Citing famed U.S. generals like Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, Trump laid into operation commanders for their “stupidity.”
“What a group of losers we have,” he said at a campaign rally just days before the election.
Military historians and senior officers, however, maintained the strategy in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city at the time, would help reduce civilian casualties and isolate the enemy amid urban warfare.
Iraq isn’t the only country Trump has misjudged since taking office. During the campaign, Trump promised his top notch negotiating skills could persuade China to help rein in an increasingly belligerent North Korea. Not so.
“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.