Just when one thought US foreign policy couldn't sink any deeper into the hole of its embarrassment, it takes out a shovel and starts digging. Overnight, in what AP describes as a stunning assault that exposed Iraq's eroding central authority, Al Qaida-inspired militants from ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, overran much of Mosul on Tuesday, seizing government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled the second-largest city.
For those who may have forgotten, Iraq was one of those countries "liberated" by the the United States, which unlike Afghanistan where the opium trade is still important, did pull out its troops two and a half years ago.
Ths shocking takeover of Mosul took place months after Al Qaeda-linked fighers took over another Iraqi town, Fallujah, earlier in the year and which they have successfully defended against government attempts to reclaim it.
That however, was just the appetizer: Mosul is a much bigger, more strategic prize. The city and surrounding Ninevah province, which is on the doorstep of Iraq's relatively prosperous Kurdish region, are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.
"This isn't Fallujah. This isn't a place you can just cordon off and forget about," said Michael Knights, a regional security analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, cited by AP. "It's essential to Iraq."
The WSJ adds that 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.
The capture of Mosul by rebels linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, 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.
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."
Videos showed victorious insurgents waving black flags emblazoned with an Islamic script—the standard brandished by al Qaeda militants world-wide.
The biggest irony here is that while the US is arming "rebels" in neighboring Syria, among which numerous Al-Qaeda rebels, the weapons and the trained "fighters" then promptly make their way across the border and continue fighting the US-blessed government in Iraq!
Jessica Lewis, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, said ISIS fighters won a notable victory in Mosul.
"ISIS is designing its campaign around the state that it believes it has already created," said Ms. Lewis, currently research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C.
"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."
The ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq.
And to think none of this could have been accomplished without the assistance of the US state department.
The Obama administration, responding to the fall of Mosul, said ISIS "is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq but a threat to the entire region."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the group has drawn strength from the Syrian civil war, where it can acquire recruits, weapons and other resources for its fight in Iraq.
Perhaps miss Psaki should have answered questions about where the ISIS force was getting its weapons. 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 paramilitary force.
Below is a detailed narrative of just how Al-Qaeda managed to take over yet another garrison in the middle east:
Despite the security precautions, ISIS fighters raided the western half of Mosul early Friday, forcing military personnel and federal police forces to retreat over bridges to the eastern bank of the Tigris River, which divides the city.
For three days, residents in the eastern half of the city huddled in their houses and parceled out their ever-dwindling supply of food and other staples, as authorities tried to secure the city.
Mosul governor Atheel Nujaifi, appearing Monday evening on national television, made a desperate call for city residents to form ad hoc committees to defend themselves. But he fled on Monday night.
In the early-morning darkness of Tuesday, local resistance dissolved, as insurgents poured across the bridges separating east from west. According to witnesses, government soldiers fled on foot, leaving the streets littered with abandoned army vehicles, weapons and uniforms.
The vanquished soldiers knocked on doors and begged for civilian clothes, so they could escape without being identified, said Ahmed Khaza'al, a cosmetic dealer.
The victory by ISIS and its allies means they control sizable regions in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces. Upon news of Mosul's fall, fears of more fighting rippled across the country.
The US has pledged to help Iraqi leaders "push back against this aggression" as the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him extraordinary powers to tackle the crisis. The rampage by the black banner-waving insurgents was a heavy defeat for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to hold onto power, and highlighted the growing strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group has been advancing in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, capturing territory in a campaign to set up a militant enclave straddling the border.
But the battle, for the time being, seemed to be over. Some police were discarding uniforms and weapons and fleeing a city where the black flag of ISIL now flew over government buildings.
"We have lost Mosul this morning," said a colonel at a local military command center. "Army and police forces left their positions and ISIL terrorists are in full control.
"It’s a total collapse of the security forces."
This is the aftermath in clips and images:
Assyrian church set ablaze...
Iraqi troop uniforms left behind...
As the roads are full amid the mass exodus...
* * *
But the worst news by far for the US is that as a result of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS forces, an unknown number, and at least one, US ultramodern Blackhawk and Kiowa helicopters parked at the Mosul airport, are now in, you guessed it, Al Qaeda hands.
— ConflictReporter (@MiddleEast_BRK) June 10, 2014
— ?? ????? #????? (@Ghareeba_7) June 10, 2014
Guys, a base of these was captured by Dawla in Mosul... Imagine what could be done with them. Black Hawk choppers. pic.twitter.com/HXzL0Z8637
— Ghazi (@ghazishami) June 10, 2014
So Mosul has fallen and the ISIS jihadists now have blackhawks and humvees and guns,courtesy of Uncle Sam
— Hemil (@cravingHedonist) June 10, 2014
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) June 10, 2014
Mosul airport viewed through Google maps: grounded helicopters can be easily seen just east of the main airstrip:
Thank you US State Department: once again, this smashing Al-Qaeda success could not have been achieved without your help.