Factors behind the fall of Mosul to ISIL (Daesh) in 2014


What factors caused the fall of Mosul to ISIL (Daesh) in 2014, with particular focus on the proximate causes in the period 2011-14?


The city of Mosul in Iraq’s Nineveh Province fell to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), known in Iraq as Daesh, on June 9 2014, following three days of fighting between jihadists and the Iraqi Security Forces.

General factors behind the fall of Mosul in 2014:

  • Sectarian policies: Marginalisation of the Sunni minority following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq fostered anger and resentment. De-Ba’athification policies and the dissolution of the Iraqi army made Mosul a fertile recruiting ground for extremist groups like ISIL.
  • Lack of a post-2003 roadmap: The US’ lack of a post-2003 plan for Iraq also contributed to the rise of ISIL.
  • Political system: The deeply flawed political system in Iraq was arguably a key factor behind the fall of Mosul.

Proximate factors:

  • Former Prime Minister Maliki’s consolidation of his personal power base: There is general consensus in the literature on the fall of Mosul, that Maliki’s emphasis on expanding his own personal power base at the expense of the effectiveness of state institutions was one of the factors leading to the rapid fall of Mosul in the face of the ISIL onslaught.
  • Sectarian policies: The violent suppression of Sunni protesters, and the disbanding of the Sahwa fostered anger and resentment among the Sunni community, making them more open to recruitment by extremist groups.
  • The state of the armed forces and ISIL fighters: While some argue that the ferocity and commitment of ISIL fighters led to their success in Mosul, there is a general consensus in the literature that the Iraqi armed forces’ ineptitude and lack of equipment was a more significant factor behind the city’s fall to ISIL.
  • The international community’s shortcomings: The international community’s unwavering support for Maliki also contributed to fall of Mosul, as they failed to push for political reform.


Suggested citation

Strachan, A.L. (2017). Factors behind the fall of Mosul to ISIL (Daesh) in 2014. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.