Iraqi cities liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) are seeing a level of security that is enabling displaced residents to return and reconstruction work to begin.
In Mosul, which had been the group's largest stronghold in Iraq, city residents are gradually resuming their normal lives, as displaced residents begin to return.
Improved security and services have made this possible, said Wissam Ammar, a resident of al-Arabi district in east Mosul.
"Rebuilding the city as it was before is not an easy undertaking," he told Diyaruna, pointing out that reconstruction is a top priority for residents given the current level of security in the Ninawa province city.
"With such a level of stability, anything can be fixed," he said.
Open channels of communication
The Joint Military Operations Command has plans for maintaining security that focus on creating an effective intelligence system and building trust with the local population, spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul told Diyaruna.
"After liberating cities and clearing explosives and remnants of war, we are now focused on how to hold the land and protect people," he said. "We have started to ramp up our intelligence and are working towards adopting new methods."
Pre-emptive operations are under way to hunt down ISIS sleeper cells, he said, adding that Iraqi forces have "dismantled and destroyed several of those cells".
Good channels of communication between residents and the security forces are of foremost importance in any effort to maintain security, Rasul noted.
Following the battles, there has been "a high level of trust between both sides", he said. "We want to reinforce this relationship so we can create an environment where people work with the security forces towards maintaining stability."
Recent anti-ISIS operations have been conducted in response to intelligence submitted by the local population, he said, listing an October 7th strike on an ISIS gathering in al-Qaim as the most recent example of this co-operation.
"Terrorists were planning attacks in the capital, Baghdad, and in Najaf province," he said, adding that a senior leader closely associated with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those who were killed in the raid.
'A culture that shuns terrorism'
"Stability in the liberated cities is critical to their reconstruction and development," said researcher Hisham al-Hashimi, who specialises in the study of extremist movements.
But stability requires transitional justice, the return of the displaced population, and fostering a culture that shuns terrorism, he told Diyaruna.
In order to restore and maintain stability, he said, the government must sponsor comprehensive anti-terrorism programmes that reach a large number of people.
"We have to encourage people at mosques and schools and via the Internet and all communication channels to take part in the responsibility of preserving security," he said.
Al-Hashimi warned against falling short of this responsibility, noting that to do so would dishonour the sacrifices made and military successes accomplished.
Steady progress in Ninawa province
There has been a notable increase in reconstruction efforts in Ninawa province, which was liberated in late August, Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakaa told Diyaruna.
"We are making progress, albeit slowly due to weak funding," he said.
In eastern Mosul, water and electricity services have resumed and all municipalities are now functioning, al-Wakaa said.
But western Mosul "still suffers from shortages in basic services", he added, noting that residents "have reopened their shops and cleaned the roads and alleys themselves".
Two bridges that link east and west Mosul are being restored, while a third bridge in al-Qayyarah south of Mosul has been repaired by the military engineering division.
"We still have a long way ahead, but we are keeping up our efforts," he said.