The Islamic State appears to be nearly ousted in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and now US-backed forces have the last 2,500 ISIS holdouts trapped in the group's other stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, reports the New York Times. The militants are cut off from supplies, though the final battle to defeat them promises to be a difficult one that plays out building by building. ISIS leaders already have fled the city, and the group maintains control over smaller towns in both Syria and Iraq. Related developments:
- The plan? Once ISIS is routed from Syria and Iraq, then what? The Los Angeles Times reports that the US doesn't seem to have a clear strategy yet for the aftermath, one that takes into account factors such as Iran, Russia, reconstruction, safe zones, troop numbers, etc. Without "rules of the road,” it's "a dangerous situation," says one analyst.
- Assad's role: One particularly thorny problem for the US is whether to try to keep Syria's Bashar al-Assad in check as he seeks to reclaim territory abandoned by ISIS. The AP has an analysis.
- 'Mom, I'm exhausted': What's it like for civilians still in Raqqa? "Mom, I'm exhausted and the situation is horrible, I can't bear this life anymore," writes a 23-year-old daughter to her mom. CNN takes a look at WhatsApp messages.
- A leader emerges: Iraq's success in Mosul has turned the spotlight on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In a profile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the 65-year-old former electrical engineer has emerged as a genuine leader after three years, to pretty much everyone's surprise.
- Premature? But at BuzzFeed, Nancy A. Youssef writes that Abadi and other Iraqi leaders may have made a mistake in declaring the end of the ISIS caliphate last week. Too much fighting remains, in Mosul and elsewhere.
- Abuses in Iraq: Human Rights Watch says it has reports of Iraqi soldiers beating and executing unarmed men fleeing Mosul.
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