Despite the return of U.S. army patrols and the dispatch of reinforcements by the government in Baghdad, anti-U.S. rebels still have the upper hand in the northern city of Mosul.

Iraqi police and U.S. forces are being repeatedly fired upon, and many residents don't venture outside, even during the day.

Certain parts of the city are no-go areas for both U.S. Marines and Iraqi police, which has forced many residents to flee. The industrial quarter of Sinaa has turned into a haven for insurgents, and most of the factories and workshop owners there are reported to have fled.

Gangs and criminals are wreaking havoc here. In the absence of security, they can do whatever they please with impunity, and kidnappings and assassinations are reported to have increased. It is not at all unusual to come across a human corpse thrown alongside a street.

When U.S. troops landed in Iraq in 2003, Mosul was the first city in Iraq to democratically elect a council and was seen by many as a success story to be emulated across the country. But today, the city is a major rebel stronghold where anti-U.S. forces and gangs impose on the population their own interpretation of Islamic law.

Although the presence of U.S. troops and Iraqi police is a reassuring factor for Mosul's hard pressed people, this seems to have lost the deterrent power it once had.

Now the rebels don't even mind the presence of the Americans, since they never dare dismount their armored vehicles. U.S. foot patrols are now unthinkable, as they turn the Marines into easy prey for snipers. As for Iraqi troops and police, they have no armored protection and drive open pick-up trucks, making them easy targets as well.