Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 150, March 15, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued their slow advance through the Old City along the Tigris River. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division finally took the Iron Bridge, making it three out of the five spans across the Tigris River that are now under government control. The bridges were knocked out by Coalition air strikes so they are largely symbolic victories.

The spokesman for the Golden Division claimed that 60% of west Mosul was liberated. Three days before the police said only 30% was freed. Why the discrepancy? The police were counting by districts, and the Golden Division was counting by area and including the airport and Ghazlani base that are outside the city proper. Whichever metric is being used, the ISF are now in the middle of the western section.  

To the west of Mosul the army and Hashd said that the entire Badush district had been taken. This was important because it helped encircle and cut off Mosul from Tal Afar and Syria.

The United States and Iraq’s premier both thought that the battle was heading towards its conclusion. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi held a new conference announcing that the campaign was in its “final phase.” He told the Islamic State they could either surrender or be killed. According to U.S. General Joseph Martin IS was falling apart, was disorganized, and lacked leadership. He added that the insurgents were taking longer to react to the ISF. IS was defeated strategically in Iraq a long ago. They are still putting up a tough fight on the ground however, and victory in Mosul is still probably a few weeks away.

More than 100,000 people have now left west Mosul. Deputy Displacement Minister Jassim al-Attiya put the figure at 125,000. The International Organization for Migration had 97,000, but that was only people registered with the government and aid agencies. The displacement Ministry seemed to be counting people that had gone through screening while exiting the city, hence the higher number.

The authorities are mishandling this massive flood of people. The United Nations noted that the Iraqi forces were taking all of the displaced (IDPs) to camps in the south, which are full. USA Today for example, went to Hamam al-Alil where one camp is and found people sleeping on the ground because there was no room inside. The camp itself was running out of food, water and medicine. There are over 27,000 spots open in Kurdistan, but the ISF is not telling people about them. Instead they are informed they can go to the camps in the south, go to east Mosul, or stay with relatives. The U.N. and aid agencies are talking with the government and ISF to try to change this.

The Philadelphia Inquirer went to east Mosul to see how conditions were. As others have found, life is returning to the eastern side with shops opening, but there are no services. The electricity and water grids are down, and people have to rely upon private generators and water brought in by the ISF. The government, the main employer, is not paying its workers yet. Schoolteachers for example have not gotten any salaries. People are also worried about Islamic State attacks. Some families are angry at Baghdad because there is no rebuilding going on, while others are considering leaving because of the poor state of affairs.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times went to a mass gave near the town of Al Houd. 25 bodies had been taken out of the site so far, but it is laced with IEDs left behind by the militants. That has killed people trying to excavate the area. While IS controlled the town, up to 118 people disappeared, and are likely buried there. When the Islamic State swept through Ninewa in 2014 it portrayed itself as the defenders of the Sunnis against the Baghdad. That community proved to be one of its major victims as IS killed anyone that opposed its rule.

SOURCES

Baghdad Post, “125,000 fled liberated areas in Mosul – Official,” 3/15/17

Buratha News, "Security forces in control of the old bridge and the Passports Department freed central Mosul," 3/15/17

Hennessy-Fiske, Molly, “Unearthing atrocities in Iraq’s newest mass graves,” Los Angeles Times, 3/14/17

Al Jazeera, “100,000 flee as Iraqi forces advance in west Mosul,” 3/15/17

Kossov, Igor, “Mosul’s growing humanitarian crisis as bad as feared,” USA Today, 3/15/17

Michaels, Jim, “In Mosul, ISIS is in disarray and surrounded,” USA Today, 3/15/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Army says 60% of western Mosul under govt troops control,” Iraqi News, 3/15/17
- "Iraqi troops retake strategic region in western Mosul from IS," Iraqi News, 3/15/17

Reuters, “Mosul battle reaching final stages: Abadi,” 3/15/17

Rubin, Trudy, “Worldview: Rubin: Surviving in ISIS-occupied Mosul,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/15/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi forces control 3rd of 5 bridges from western Mosul,” 3/15/17

Shafaaq News, "These are the results of the last 24 hours in the battle for Mosul," 3/15/17


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