For nearly two-and-a-half miles along the western bank of the Tigris River, hardly a single building is intact. The warren of narrow streets of Mosul's Old City is a crumpled landscape of broken concrete and metal. Every acre is weighed down by more than 3,000 tons of rubble, much of it laced with explosives and unexploded ordnance.
It will take years to haul away the wreckage, and this is just one corner of the destruction. The Iraqi military and U.S.-led coalition succeeded in uprooting Islamic State across the country, but the cost of victory is nearly incalculable.
Photographs by Ahmad al-Rubaye / AFP - Getty Images
July 10, 2017 and Jan. 10, 2018
Three years of war devastated much of northern and western Iraq. Baghdad estimates $100 billion is needed nationwide to rebuild. Local leaders in Mosul, the biggest city held by ISIS, say that amount is needed to rehabilitate their city alone.
July 5, 2017 and Jan. 9, 2018
So far no one is offering to foot the bill.
The Trump administration has told the Iraqis it won’t pay for a massive reconstruction drive. Iraq hopes Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will step up, and Iran may also take a role.
The U.N. is repairing some infrastructure in nearly two dozen towns and cities around Iraq, but funding for it is a fraction of what will be needed. As a result, much of the rebuilding that has happened has come from individuals using personal savings to salvage homes and shops as best they can.
July 9, 2017 and Jan. 8, 2018
Nearly every city or town in former ISIS territory needs repair to one degree or another. The longer it takes, the longer many of those who fled ISIS or the fighting remain uprooted. While 2.7 million Iraqis have returned to lands seized back from the militants, more than 3 million others cannot and they languish in camps.
Mosul was the worst hit; the U.N. estimates 40,000 homes there need to be rebuilt or restored, and some 600,000 residents have been unable to return to the city, once home to around 2 million people.
March 22, 2017 and Jan. 10, 2018
Corruption and bitter sectarian divisions make things even harder. The areas with the worst destruction are largely Sunni, while the Baghdad government is Shiite-dominated. The fear is that if Sunni populations feel they’ve been abandoned and left to fend for themselves in shattered cities, the resentment will feed the next generation of militants.
“The responsibility to pay for reconstruction falls with the international community,” said Abdulsattar al-Habu, the director of Mosul municipality and reconstruction adviser to Nineveh province, where the city is located.
If Mosul is not rebuilt, he said, “it will result in the rebirth of terrorism.”
June 30, 2017 and Jan. 8, 2018
There were effectively two battles for Mosul. The first, from October to February, freed the city’s east, which survived largely intact. The second pulverized the west side. There, ISIS dug in and the Iraqis and U.S.-led coalition upped their firepower, culminating in house-to-house fighting in the Old City.
July 9, 2017 and Jan. 8, 2018
The city, which ISIS overran in the summer of 2014, was declared liberated in July. An Associated Press investigation found at least 9,000 civilians died in the assault to retake Mosul, most in the west.
July 2, 2017 and Jan. 8, 2018
The Old City shows the densest destruction, but nearly every neighborhood of western Mosul has blocks of blasted houses, industrial areas, government buildings and infrastructure.