In an exclusive interview with New Europe, Iraqi Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union explains the post-liberation situation of Mosul, the city in northern Iraq that served as a stronghold for Islamic State since 2014.

Jawad Al Hindawi also said it is just a couple of weeks before Iraqi forces start to target Islamic State terrorists controlling villages around Mosul. He stressed the need to wage an ideological war against Islamic State to prevent the formation of a new generation of terrorists.

By Grandesso Federico

What is the current situation in Mosul and the surrounding areas? What’s the role of the foreign forces?

The two areas of old and new Mosul are now free from terrorists, but there is still the resistance of IS militants in some areas. I think that in few days, even these small groups will be eliminated. Then we have other big villages around Mosul, like Tal Afar, that are still under the control of the IS. This village is very big and strategic so we hope in two or three weeks to start advancing in that direction.

As for the role of the international forces in Mosul, it is limited to intelligence, consulting and planning activities sometimes with the use of aviation, but they are not implicated on the ground.

How do you think the terrorists will try to escape?

I think the only possibility for them is to escape by hiding within the civilian population, but not only. For example, on Thursday 13 July, the Iraqi army found a group of 40-50 terrorists trying to escape through a tunnel. They can’t flee in the direction of Syria because all the routes are blocked and controlled by our army.

Around Mosul we are helped by mobilising people – they are not part of the army nor the police and they do not take part in the fights in the city, but they control the entrances to the city.

How are you addressing the human rights situation?

I can assure you that our army and the prime minister are taking very high consideration the life of the civilian population. For this reason, the army is taking more time in the offensive in order to minimise losses among civilians.

The liberation of Mosul was very “clean”, if we compare the past operations in Fallujah and Ramadi. The procedures of the military forces were taking into consideration all the aspects related to the presence of civilians.

How do you plan to deal with the part of the population that is still not completely in favour of this liberation?

Our first principle now is tolerance. Our government knows very well the reasons that pushed them to support Islamic State. Therefore, with all the civilians that didn’t participate actively in Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Islamic State] activities, we will try to begin a “new life” – an atmosphere of construction, peace and tolerance.

We will try to forget the past, but not forget the martyrs, the soldiers killed for the liberation of Mosul and the negativity of Daesh ideology.

We must continue to mobilise society to fight these terrorists militarily and ideologically.

What is the level of damage in the city of Mosul?

More than half of the city is highly damaged. For this reason, our prime minister said on July 13 that we need around $100bn for the reconstruction. The Iraqi state budget will give its high contribution, but count also on the help from the EU and of the international community. Also, we hope the price of oil will rise.

Is there a mistake that should be avoided in the management of the Islamic State crisis? Any news about the number of European fighters?

The mistake in the past was tolerance vis-à-vis Daesh. There were too many possibilities of gatherings to spread their propaganda. Now we should stop this directly without hesitation.

For the future, the first step to take by Iraq and all Arab countries is to enhance our military and political cooperation in order to continue the fight against Daesh. Military fighting is not enough. We have to fight them ideologically.

We have to stop a potential rise of a new generation of IS terrorists and our population is confident that the IS will never be back in our country.

About the active foreign fighters, we know that there are 5,000 units, among them 700-800 are Europeans. We have a very active cooperation with the intelligence services from France and Belgium, the exchange of information rendered very good results.