The US-backed offensive to crush the Islamic State (IS) group in its last major stronghold in Iraq entered the second month on Thursday as forces, arrayed against the hardline Sunni group, finally sought to seal off Mosul from all sides.
The militants have been steadily retreating from areas around Mosul into the city since the battle started on October 17, with air and ground support from a US-led coalition. In the event of a successful offensive, which could take months to accomplish, one of the biggest challenges for the Baghdad administration will be to restore governance in the city and by extension, the entire country.
US forces, which had maintained an occupying presence in Mosul till 2010, will not provide further troop support to Iraqi forces in their bid to regain control of the country. The protracted war in Iraq has opened up sectarian wounds between the US-backed Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and Sunni majority regions. The Iraqi government has a small presence in these areas.