Iraqi Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units
Baghdad - Arab Today
Daesh group Thursday marked a year since its capture of Mosul with a film documenting the founding moment of the "caliphate" that triggered an international war.
A year after the fall of Iraq's second city, an ever-broadening conflict was in full swing, with Daesh franchises spreading across the region and Washington being drawn ever deeper into the quagmire.
The video glamorises the assault Daesh launched in Iraq last year as an epic Islamic conquest, with previously unreleased footage of civilians welcoming the jihadists and elated prisoners being freed.
The 29-minute production also further documents the debacle of Iraq's security forces last year and recounts Daesh fighters' surprise at how easily they took Mosul.
"It was unthinkable that the advance would be so much greater than was planned," said the narrator of the video, which was published on social media.
He said IS had planned to take control of areas on one side of the city in order to launch a further push later, only to discover that the other bank of the Tigris "was empty of (Iraqi) soldiers before the men of Daesh arrived".
The jihadist group's offensive in Iraq began on June 9. By the following day, Daesh-led forces had overrun Mosul, a city of two million people.
The blitz led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and saw the collapse of multiple divisions in an army the US had spent years and billion of dollars training and equipping.
Three years after ending its occupation of Iraq in 2011, Washington was back to training Iraqi troops as part of its effort to help Baghdad roll back territorial losses.
- US strategy -
A year on, Daesh has displayed huge resilience while Iraqi forces are still underperforming, leading to increasing questioning of the White House's strategy.
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday approved the deployment of 450 troops to Anbar, a province whose capital Ramadi Daesh seized last month.
The new contingent will be based at Taqaddum Air Base, nestled along the Euphrates River between jihadist-held Ramadi and Fallujah.
That would nudge the ranks of Washington's "train, advise and assist" mission in Iraq above 3,500 but critics downplayed the deployment as a mere short-term tactical move.
"I support the tactical move the president is taking, but where's the overarching strategy," asked House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
The Pentagon said Thursday it was considering creating more bases such as Taqaddum.
"We are actively considering where we can establish other (bases)," spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.
"At the same time, our thought process will be informed by what happens at Taqaddum."
Several officials in Anbar said Iraqi and foreign warplanes had bombed targets in and around Ramadi on Thursday.
- Multiple fronts -
Baghdad's operations so far have focused on severing Daesh supply lines in Anbar, which has a long border with regions of Syria the jihadist group also controls.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said a ground operation inside Ramadi was made too dangerous by the jihadists' systematic use of huge truck bombs.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters made a push south of Kirkuk Thursday on the back of air strikes against Daesh fighters attempting to rebuild a car bomb facility after their largest such factory was levelled in a coalition strike last week, officers said.
Syrian Kurdish fighters also backed by coalition warplanes took the town of Suluk in northeastern Syria and advanced towards Daesh-held town of Tal Abyad, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The monitoring group said fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) "plan to lay siege to Tal Abyad," which lies on the border with Turkey.
And in southern Syria, a rebel alliance that includes groups supported by Washington seized most of a military airport in a province controlled by the regime, a spokesman said.
State television denied the claim but both the Southern Front and the Observatory said the regime had lost most of Al-Thaala airport in Sweida province.
They also said the rebels shot down a Syrian warplane. State TV acknowledged an aircraft went down and said an investigation was under way.