Liberating Fallujah, or whatever’s left of it

Fallujah officially belongs to Iraq again, per the Pentagon:

Iraqi security forces have “100 percent control” of Fallujah, located 40 miles west of Baghdad, Pentagon officials said. Fallujah was the first city taken over by ISIS in January 2014.

“I congratulate Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and the Iraqi people for their progress in freeing the city of Fallujah from the grip of ISIL,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement released today by the Pentagon. ISIS is also known as ISIL.

The real struggle, of course, is rebuilding it so that somebody, like its former residents, can live there. Rebuilding costs money, and the Iraqi government is running pretty damned short of that, thanks to political dysfunction and cheap oil. Just ask the people of Ramadi, or the ruins of Ramadi, which is still largely uninhabitable without any apparent relief coming in the near future. It will take time to assess just how damaged Fallujah is, but there will almost certainly be a need for a major rebuilding project there and it’s just as certain that Baghdad can’t afford it.

Repopulating the city, which is almost an afterthought right now given the likely constraints on rebuilding it, is a political decision. Can Fallujah’s former residents be brought back? This city was the first majority Anbar province city to pull away from Baghdad’s control back in 2012-2013, even before ISIS swept in. It will take a long, probably painful, but ultimately utterly necessary national reconciliation effort to put Iraq back together and create the conditions under which cities like Ramadi and Fallujah can be reopened to the families who lived there before ISIS showed up. As difficult as these battles to dislodge ISIS have been and will continue to be (Mosul will be the hardest one yet), they’re nothing compared to the work that has to be done to form a functioning Iraq, or a functioning something, once the shooting war is over.



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