Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 223 May 27 2017

The last assault on Mosul finally began. The Army’s 9th, 15th, and 16th Divisions attacked the Shifa neighborhood. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division went into Zinjali, while the Golden Division attacked the first Saha district. The Third Bridge across the Tigris River was reached, and the Mosul Hotel and Tamuz 17 were both taken. This was the fourth time the latter was declared freed. A brigade and a regimental commander in the 16th Division were killed in the day’s fighting. General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi of the Golden Division appeared on television stating that the Islamic State had lost control of the situation. On the other hand, General Haider Fadhil also of the Golden Division said that resistance had not lessoned, and remained high. Other Iraqi and American officers thought this would be the toughest part of the entire operation. IS only controls roughly five square miles of territory along the Tigris, but they have put up a determined defense especially in the Old City, which held up the police for months. The layout of the city in this area is especially dense and many streets are too narrow for vehicles or tanks to traverse. There have been several reports of the Iraqi forces having to fight floor to floor inside buildings. The insurgents also have an extensive tunnel network and have dug holes in walls to allow them to fire and maneuver without exposing themselves to air strikes. It’s likely that this final phase will take a few weeks to conclude.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 222 May 26 2017

Iraqi forces preparing for final assault on 4-7 neighborhoods Islamic State still controls in west Mosul (white area) (Ninewa Media Cell)

No combat was reported in Mosul during the day. That was because the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were gearing up for the final push on the city. The Joint Operations Command told the press that the city would fall in a few days. Even so, it warned that the fighting in the Old City would be difficult because of the narrow streets forcing the ISF to move into the district on foot. The ISF was also trying to get civilians to leave the area. Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon wouldn’t give a timeline for how long the battle would take, but didn’t think it would be over quickly like the Iraqis. Finally, Badr head Hadi Amiri criticized the Coalition for only giving token support and blamed it for Mosul not being liberated yet. Iraqi announcements are always positive because of its victory narrative. It wasn’t that long ago that they were claiming that the west Mosul would be so much easier than the east because most of the Islamic State fighters had fled. That didn’t happen. Amiri on the other hand is an ally of Iran and always looks to denigrate the work of the Americans and its allies as a result. Colonel Dillon was probably the most realistic. Mosul will fall, but no one can be sure how long it will take.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 221 May 25 2017

Battle damage in west Mosul’s Najar neighborhood (Baghdad Post)
More pictures taken from Niqash reporter returning to his home in Mosul (Niqash)

There were clashes in west Mosul, but the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were mostly preparing the for the next and final push to liberate the entire city. The army and Federal Police were fighting with the Islamic State in the Old City. The Federal Police were removing barricades in that district to allow civilians to escape, and for supplies to brought in for the ISF. Different units were moving into position for the next assault on the city. The Islamic State holds around 4-7 neighborhoods along the Tigris River. The Federal Police are in the south of that area, the Rapid Reaction Division in the east, and the Golden Division to the west and north. Yesterday reinforcements were arriving as well. The final phase of the battle will likely start soon after the ISF resupplies and refits. The conclusion should take a few weeks. Taking on the Old City will be the most difficult due to its dense layout and IS’s defenses.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 220 May 24 2017

The pace of operations in Mosul has lessened slightly after the recent gains. Northwest Mosul was quickly freed after a new front was opened by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Now there are just a few neighborhoods left under Islamic State control along the Tigris River. The Federal Police were fighting in Tamuz 17 and the Old City district. The former was declared freed three times before, but apparently still has Islamic State elements. Prime Minister Haider Abadi also called on the Golden Division to help take the rest of the city. Last week the unit declared that it had accomplished all its goals in the campaign, but it never stopped fighting. Reinforcements have arrived as well to the Old City for the final push. There is a slight pause in the offensive against the insurgents as the ISF consolidates its hold, and reloads and rearms before they make their last drive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 219 May 23 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reached the Tigris River yesterday, and now are pushing south towards the last areas of the city held by the Islamic State. Depending upon the source there are either 5 or 7 neighborhoods left under Islamic State control. The Army’s 9th Division and 16th Divisions, the Golden Division, and the Rapid Reaction Division all pushed into the Shifa neighborhood, which the ISF claimed it freed back in March. There was also fighting in Hawi Kanisa, which has been declared cleared of insurgents twice before, and in the Old City.  The army warned that taking the Old City the largest section left could take longer than excepted. The deputy head of the army’s 9th Brigade hoped that would be two weeks. Earlier the ISF claimed they could finish operations before the start of Ramadan which is the fourth week of May. That doesn't seem possible. The ISF also built a bridge across the Tigris at the Hawi Kanisa neighborhood. That will be used to shift forces from the east to west and allow civilians to escape. There’s no timeline when offensive operations will restart to take the remaining districts, but it probably won’t be long.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 218 May 22 2017

A boy shows victory sign next to a captured IS armored vehicle in Najar neighborhood northwest Mosul, probably for use as a car bomb (Rudaw)

Roughly 4 neighborhoods remain under Islamic State control in Mosul (white area) (Ninewa Media Cell)

The liberation of all of Mosul is at hand. The Najar area along the Tigris River was the latest to fall to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There was fighting going on in Rifai as well. Colonel Patrick Work, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 82 Airborne Division, which is advising the Iraqi army in the battle warned that as the last sections of the city were reached the fighting would reach a crescendo. The ISF were building a bridge across the Tigris to connect the east and west to allow people to flee the conflict. Another span was already put up in the northern section of the city for the same purpose. There are only four neighborhoods left in west Mosul under Islamic State control. Iraqi generals and politicians are still talking about freeing the city before Ramadan, which is only a few days away. That is unlikely to happen, but the final date is still close at hand.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 216-217 May 20-21 2017

Latest map of west Mosul shows that the Iraqi forces are clearing up neighborhoods along Tigris River (Ninewa Media Cell)

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are taking the last neighborhoods of west Mosul. On May 20, Tamuz 17 was declared fully cleared by the Federal Police. The ISF said it freed the neighborhood twice before. Similarly Iqtisadin was liberated for the third time. Rabia was a new area taken from the insurgents as well. The next day there was continued fighting in Najar and Bab al-Sinjar was attacked by the Golden Division. The security forces and Ninewa officials agree there are only a few parts of west Mosul left under Islamic State control, but they disagree about which ones. The Golden Division and Federal Police told the press only four areas were left. They named the Old City, Shifa, and Siha, but had different neighborhoods for the fourth either Bab al-Sinjar or Zinjali. A member of the Ninewa security committee had the figure at 7 neighborhoods, but didn’t name them. Whatever the exact number is there are only a few left, and the battle for the city is near its end.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was quoted in “Foreign Advisers Are Turning Kurdish Soldiers Into Professionals” by Paul Iddon for War Is Boring. The Baghdad Post reprinted the Independent article on the Mosul Battle which I was interviewed for, and Al Mada, Al Ahed, Tabnak and Mihan all had an edited version of the same piece. I was also mentioned by John Moll in "Irak oglosil, ze bitwa o Mosul wkrotce dobiegnie konca" in the Polish Zmiany na Ziemi, and in "Trump revealed sensitive info to Russians; How US troops returned to Somalia; US Army's 'digital leash'; NATO military leaders' agenda; and just a bit more" by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston for Defense One. I was cited in "Bataille de Mossoul: Les Forces Irakienes Se Positionnent Pour L'Offensive Finale" in France Soir.

Security In Iraq May 1-7, 2017

There was another record low number of security incidents in Iraq the first week of May 2017. Casualties on the other hand were about average for the year.

There were just 105 incidents in Iraq from May 1-7, 2017. That was the lowest recorded total for a full week since Musings On Iraq began following security in 2013. By province there were 50 incidents in Ninewa, 22 in Baghdad, 8 in Anbar, 7 in Diyala, 6 in Salahaddin, 5 in Kirkuk, 3 in Babil and Basra each, and 1 in Dohuk. The dip in attacks was due to a drop in incidents in Ninewa. As the battle for the city is winding down there have been fewer attacks reported.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 215 May 19 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to push east and south towards the Tigris River and the Old City district respectively. The Rawsahn neighborhood was freed by the Golden Division, while the northern section of Tamuz 17 was brought under control. The problem with the latter is that the ISF claimed to have liberated all of Tamuz 17 twice before. The Iraqis are on the verge of taking Mosul, yet still exaggerate their gains. The victory narrative pushed by Baghdad since 2014 seems to require positive news be reported everyday both real and imagined.

Mosul Campaign Day 223 May 27 2017

The last assault on Mosul finally began. The Army’s 9 th , 15 th , and 16 th Divisions attacked the Shifa neighborhood. The Federal Pol...