When Iraqi forces reach Mosul, Patrick Martin of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington said they should expect to see similar complex defenses like the tunnel networks and booby-trapped explosives in Badana, but on a much greater scale.
"They're making sure that whenever the operation to retake the city commences it will be extremely difficult for the security forces to do so," Martin said, adding that while there are reports of some IS fighters fleeing Mosul, the group has also displayed a willingness to defend the city by mobilizing car bombs, suicide bombers and building trenches.
When IS fighters moved into the territory around Mosul more than two years ago, the group attacked with convoys that traversed the open desert and held parades in the city center. Now, faced with punishing airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, the fighters have been forced to change tactics, melting into civilian populations and building networks of tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above.
A peshmerga fighter walks through the kitchen of an underground tunnel made by Islamic State fighters, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday.
After a string of victories over the past year, Iraqi ground forces have pushed ISIS out of more than half the territory the group once held in Iraq, with close support from the U.S.-led coalition. Now, with the launch of the campaign to retake Mosul, the extremists' main stronghold, Iraqi forces are again operating under coalition air cover.
During the first day of the operation, the most complex for Iraq's military since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, Kurdish forces say they retook nine villages and pushed the frontline back eight kilometers (five miles).
But like Badana, those villages were almost completely empty of civilians, allowing coalition warplanes to largely clear the territory from the air.
In the center of the village on Tuesday, a group of Kurdish fighters gathered around the bodies of two ISIS militants killed in an airstrike a day earlier, some crouching down to snap selfies.
A peshmerga fighter looks out of the entrance of an underground tunnel built by Islamic State fighters, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. The fighters built tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above to avoid airstrikes.
Photo Credit: Bram Janssen/AP
Lt. Col. Fariq Hama Faraj said he and his men celebrated their victory the day before and have since received orders that they will not advance any further in the Mosul fight.
"Our task is finished," he said, adding that he doesn't believe this will be the last time he fights the Islamic State group.
"They will come back with a new name and they'll be more extreme and more barbaric," he said, ducking a downed power line as he walked through the ruined village back to his camp.
"If you look to the history of these organizations we see that each one is more extreme than the last."