On June 10th an al Qaeda splinter group gained control of the Iraqi city of Mosul. The seizure of the northern city of over 2 million by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Sunni Muslims followed four days of heavy fighting in Mosul and the border province of Nineveh.

Reports said the bodies of police and military forces were strewn across the streets. Army and police uniforms and weapons were also littered across the city as those forces fled. The black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—also known as ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria—flew across the city, and was hung from buildings.

One officer told Reuters, “We can’t beat them. We can’t… They’re like ghosts: they appear, strike and disappear in seconds.”

The United States pulled out of Mosul two-and-a-half years ago, but had promised help to the Iraqi leaders to “push back against this aggression” as a state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. If parliament were to approve the state of emergency requested by the Prime Minister, it would give al-Maliki unprecedented power to take on the crisis.

In 2003, the 101st Airborne Division led by Gen. David Petraeus, now a chairman for KKR Global Institute, had at the time attempted to institute civilian leadership by beginning with city council elections. Petraeus also used the same strategy of trying to unite local communities on a larger scale under the 2007 surge when he assumed US military command of all Iraq.

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However, less than a year after Petraeus left Mosul, the city again descended into violence. Now, with Mosul taken, thousands of families are fleeing from the city.

“Mosul now is like hell. It’s flames and death everywhere,” said Amina Ibrahim, who was fleeing the city with her children.

The US State department has said it was “deeply concerned,” and the US government said it “will provide all appropriate assistance to the Government of Iraq.”

Image via M R / Shutterstock.com