The U.S. Army has never taken a city the size of Mosul from a group that possesses IS’ level of vigorous defense. Urban warfare can multiply a defender’s effectiveness many times over. The attacking force must move forward. The defender can wait and ambush attackers from many locations, and the best defensive points are in the rubble created by artillery fire and airstrikes. The more of each, the more difficult it is for the attacker to advance. Therefore, the U.S. has avoided urban warfare against conventional forces, preferring to encircle or pass by cities rather than to take them by main force. The Soviets, who did engage in urban warfare, lost about 300,000 in the final battle for Berlin.
The battle for Mosul will be a major military event in the ongoing war against IS. We will be following this topic closely with an in-depth military analysis in coming days. Sign up for our free newsletter to ensure you get Geopolitical Futures’ ongoing analysis right in your inbox.