David Petraeus, a retired American military officer stated that there is no question that ISIL will be defeated in Mosul; the real question is what comes afterward. Can the post-ISIL effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq’s most diverse and challenging provinces?

The prospect of the operation to clear Mosul brings to mind experiences from the spring of 2003, when the 101st Airborne Division, which I was privileged to command, entered a Mosul in considerable turmoil. Our first task, once a degree of order had been restored, was to determine how to establish governance. That entailed getting Iraqi partners to help run the city of nearly 2 million people and the rest of Nineveh Province a very large area about which we knew very little.

Establishing a representative interim council to work with us in Nineveh proved to be no easy task and its formation and subsequent developments hold insights for the coming endeavor in Mosul.

The challenge of Mosul and Nineveh is the considerable number of ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and other elements that make up the province. Ultimately, we ensured that the provincial council included representatives of every district in Nineveh, of every major religion (Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Shabak), of each ethnic group (Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen), of every additional major societal element (Mosul University academics, businessmen, retired generals) and of each major tribe not already sufficiently represented.

He added that they were able to structure a caucus that elected an interim provincial council. That council, in turn, elected an experienced, able interim governor (a Sunni Arab, given that Sunni Arabs made up the majority of Nineveh’s population), who was a well-respected.

Importantly, I had the legal authority needed and the forces necessary to back up that authority, if required. I was not reluctant to exercise either.

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