MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — The airstrike crater on a once-busy road in eastern Mosul is filled with murky water and lined with garbage, a nearby market shrouded in the stench. The fight for Iraq’s second largest city ended nearly three months ago, but little is back to normal.
Iraq declared the eastern half of Mosul “fully liberated” in January and launched an ongoing operation for the western half the following month. But the destruction left by the fighting is visible everywhere in the east, and resentment is already mounting at the slow pace of reconstruction.
That could have implications for Iraq’s post-Islamic State future. Mosul is a mostly Sunni city, and widespread anger at the alleged corruption and mismanagement of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad helped the extremists to gain a foothold in the city years ago — and overrun it in a matter of days in the summer of 2014.
There is no running water or electricity in eastern Mosul, and government employees who had their salaries cut off during the extremists’ rule face a long process of security vetting before they can get paid again. Clearing crews can be seen here and there, filling in holes and dragging away the burnt shells of vehicles, but they face a daunting task.
“They brought two pipes with some gravel, and the governor and the director of the municipality came wearing workmen’s clothes to show that they were doing something,” said Riyadh Thanoun, the owner of a nut shop. He said they placed the pipes and gravel over a nearby stream where a bridge had been destroyed, but the makeshift crossing washed away in the first heavy rain.
“Now it is worse than it was before,” he said. “You can’t cross at all and have to make a long detour.”
His and other shops rely on costly outdoor generators for electricity. Damage to the water network has caused widespread diarrhea, and forced aid agencies to truck some 2.3 million liters of water into the city every day.
At the Noumania primary school for boys there are few desks or books. The windows are broken and a number of chalkboards are missing. Some classes have nevertheless resumed, even though the teachers are not being paid.
“They keep saying it will happen next month or next week, but nothing so far, only promises,” Principal Rafii Mahmoud said. When asked if the school provided lunches, he laughed. “On the contrary, they are bringing us food,” he said.
Mohammed Abed Rabo, a member of parliament for Nineveh governorate, of which Mosul is the capital, blamed the situation on the “corruption and incompetence” of the local government. But Qusi Assaf, the governor’s assistant for reconstruction, said they were overwhelmed.
“We are doing our best but don’t have enough funds,” Assaf said. “It’s not just Mosul. Nineveh is a huge governorate, and we also have to provide for the camps in the middle of nowhere with a huge number of displaced people.”
Mahmoud said his teachers were working out of a sense of duty because children in Mosul had already lost two years of education under IS and couldn’t afford to lose more. He said it looked like the government was working for some other agenda, and that he could not even keep track of who was responsible for running the schools.
“We don’t have any vision for the future. We can count on God alone,” he said.
Associated Press writer Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq contributed to this report.
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