The Mosul offensive has ground down into a stalemate. While areas are still regularly freed, they are relatively small, and the Iraqi forces (ISF) have not been able to make any serious advances into the Old City district along the Tigris River. Poor weather has limited air support and led the ISF to start and stop their operations again and again over the last few weeks. The dense layout of the area has meant the ISF are not able to use their vehicles many times. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a tough defense. They have an extensive tunnel system underneath the city. They have burrowed holes through walls to allow them to move house to house without venturing outside. They have blocked off streets with cars, burned fires to obscure visibility, deployed snipers upon rooftops, and constantly moved back and forth through areas to try to avoid enemy fire.
The Iraqis and their American allies realize the situation and are talking about changing tactics to try to make a breakthrough. U.S. General John Richardson told Reuters that the ISF are thinking about attacking from different directions to make the insurgents fight on multiple fronts. General Yahya Rasool also talked about new plans being devised. Fighting in east Mosul ground to a virtual halt for a period as well. The ISF changed to a broad front with better coordination to stretch out the Islamic State and were able to gain back the momentum and take half the city. They are now hoping for a repeat of that.
Reuters and Foreign Policy were the latest to cover how life in liberated east Mosul was going. Reuters found that there were plenty of shops open, but underlying problems. First, there are few jobs available. The local government has tried to organize people to clear up streets and remove debris, but this only lasts a day at a time. A man complained that there was no steady work, and no aid from the authorities either. The electricity and water networks are still down as well. Along the Tigris River there is constant IS mortar fire. The insurgents are still attempting to infiltrate the east, and a suicide bomber was killed during the day. That insecurity has stopped public workers from returning to their jobs. For a period they were being bused in from Irbil where many re-located in 2014, but that was stopped in mid-February because people were afraid for their safety. Similar circumstances have happened in many other freed cities as well. Fallujah for example still has no services several months after it was cleared of the Islamic State, and the economy is only functioning on a low level as well. The problem is the government has plenty of plans for rebuilding, but little money to carry them out, and poor implementation.
Foreign Policy also noted the continued problems with the security forces in east Mosul. There are various units operating in the city such as the army’s 16th Division, the National Security Service (NSS), local forces, and Hashd units along with the police. These groups all compete with each other for authority and power over the city. Foreign Policy was along with an NSS unit conducting raids when it was stopped and got into an argument with soldiers who complained that they knew nothing about its activities. A senior security official told Foreign Policy that Baghdad’s federal forces are supposed to be in control of the city, but that’s not happened yet. Until then this hodgepodge of forces will continue to act largely independently of each other to try to secure the city. This is a bad situation, as the insurgents have been known to exploit gaps in the Iraqi forces to carry out their operations.
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Baghdad Post, "20 gov't forces, IMIS killed, wounded in clashes with ISIS in Mosul," 3/24/17
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Niqash, “Human Shields, Hidden Snipers, Burning Cars: Mosul Locals Explain Extremists’ Desperate Tactics,” 3/23/17
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Shelter Box, “’My husband’s body was thrown into landfill – no burial’. Heart-breaking conversations,” 3/24/17