World Bulletin / News Desk
Along with the Iraqi army, the upcoming campaign to recapture Mosul is expected to include Iraqi federal police and counter-extremism forces; the Hashd al-Shaabi (an umbrella group of Shia militias); the Hashd al-Watani (Sunni-Arab volunteer forces); armed pro-government tribesmen; and Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
According to Dlawer Ala Aldeen, founder of the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), an Erbil-based think tank, Mosul residents fear that some of these groups may not withdraw from the city once it is liberated.
They also fear the potential for sectarian conflict between the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and other groups involved in the operation, Ala Aldeen said.
"The Hashd al-Shaabi should not maintain a presence or take action in the city without the consent of the local authorities," he told Anadolu Agency, referring to the Mosul provincial council’s stated opposition to the group’s presence in the city.
Dylan O’Driscoll, a research fellow at MERI, for his part, warned that the Hashd al-Shaabi’s participation in the upcoming campaign -- which has been confirmed by Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi -- could lead to sectarian conflict.
- 'Fallujah scenario'
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, O’Driscoll noted that there was still no post-liberation plan for the ethnically and culturally diverse city, which, he warned, could lead to "big problems" later -- especially if the Hashd al-Shaabi insisted on maintaining a presence in Mosul.
He went on to warn of a repeat of the "Fallujah scenario", in which "the ‘liberators’ -- in the absence of a political agreement -- end up fighting each other for territory and control".
Earlier this month, Atheel al-Nujaifi, a leader of the Sunni Hashd al-Watani militia and a former governor of Iraq’s northern Nineveh province (of which Mosul is the regional capital), described the Hashd al-Shaabi’s participation in the Mosul campaign as "a big risk".
According to al-Nujaifi, Iraq’s Mosul region -- home to Sunni-Arab, Kurdish, Christian and Ezidi communities -- should be made into a "federal region" comprised of multiple provinces.