NEW YORK, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Lise Grande, the United Nation's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, warned that Mosul and the country's humanitarian crisis could remain even after the Islamic State is removed.
The United Nations estimates about 750,000 civilians live under the control of the Islamic State in Mosul's western section, which is more densely populated than the larger eastern section.
If the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, is defeated, it would be a "military success, but the humanitarian crisis is a legacy – it just keeps going," Grande said in a statement Wednesday.
"As soon as Daesh is defeated, there are a lot of people who need to get back home, to get back to their lives," Grande said. "If they don't, the conditions which led to the rise of ISIL will continue to be there. Humanitarians know that when Daesh is defeated that the world's attention is going to go elsewhere and that it will be difficult for us to mobilize the resources necessary."
Grande said civilian casualties in the battle for Mosul are high despite Iraqi efforts to reduce collateral damage. She said Iraq's plan to prohibit artillery airstrikes, to urge civilians to remain in their homes and to establish humanitarian exit corridors is not succeeding because the Islamic State is killing civilians directly.
"One of the exceptional aspects of the Mosul military operation was the decision by the Iraqi security forces to adopt a humanitarian concept of operations when they were developing their battle plans," Grande said. "You would expect in a conflict like this that the number of civilian casualties would be around 15 percent, a high of 20 percent. What we're seeing in Mosul is that nearly 50 percent of all casualties are in fact civilians.
"It's clear that this is because of direct targeting by combatants. They're being targeted by ISIL. They're being shot as they try and leave the city and they're being shot as they try and secure food and other resources," Grande added.
About 1.5 million civilians lived in Mosul prior to the Iraqi effort to free the city, which began on Oct. 17, the United Nations said.
Iraqi officials said security forces have captured more than 70 percent of eastern Mosul. On Sunday, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service said forces advancing from eastern Mosul reached the Tigris River, which splits the city from east to west.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter this week said the United States could maintain a presence in Iraq after the Islamic State is defeated in the battle for Mosul, but said that decision is up to Iraq's government and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.