Campaign to Liberate Mosul: An Illustration of the Challenges of Large-Scale Combat Operations in Urban Terrain
[Technical Report, Monograph]
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
Pagination or Media Count:
The purpose of this monograph is to better understand how the military can achieve political and military objectives through the employment of force in urban operations. The 2016-2017 campaign to liberate Mosul from ISIS offers the most relevant lessons to the operational artists, commanders, and statesmen seeking to understand a contemporary large-scale urban campaign conducted by a coalition and joint force. The study posed that the failure to properly account for the fundamentals of urban operations in large scale ground combat prolongs the conflict, increases risk, and decreases the likelihood of achieving the political objectives. To increase the likelihood for success, an operational approach must start with a systematic assessment, then balance military and non-military actions to simultaneously defeat or isolate the enemy, protect the population and key infrastructure, and set the conditions to rapidly transition power to a legitimate authority. The study yielded mixed outcomes in support of the original hypothesis. These findings demonstrate key implications for employing the operational art within a diverse coalition, employing expeditionary advisors, and the multitude of detractors from mission success while conducting urban operations. Broadly, the study finds that even with the application of current US doctrinal concepts, decision-makers and staffs should anticipate circumstances where the political and military objectives shift, and for state and non-state actors to act in unpredictable ways. As a result, the long-term outcomes of an urban campaign may fail to achieve the original aims.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics