ERBIL, Iraq — The Iraqi military’s operation to retake the northern city of Mosul after more than two years of Islamic State occupation could require months, even with American help. But the recapture may turn out to be the easy part.
If history is a guide, vast parts of Mosul, once Iraq’s No. 2 city with about two million inhabitants, could be left in smoldering ruins by retreating or die-hard Islamic State fighters who may use remaining civilians as shields and booby-trap entire neighborhoods with improvised bombs. Just clearing these explosives could take months or years.
Three other important Iraqi cities recaptured from the Islamic State — Ramadi, Tikrit and Falluja — were left in varying degrees of devastation. Here is a look at what happened to each:
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