Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 105, Jan 30, 2017


The Islamic State continued harassing actions, while trying to maintain its control over west Mosul. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) imposed a curfew on the neighborhoods in east Mosul along the Tigris River because of constant shelling by IS. During the day mortars and a drone attack took the lives of three people and wounded another 16. The group reportedly banned its members from leaving Mosul for Syria and imposed a new monthly tax on cab drivers to raise money. It also carried out an assault in the Tal Afar district. The group is on its heels, but it is still putting up a fight. The question is whether it will go down to the last man in west Mosul or will it be like the east with a tough initial defense that when penetrated will quickly collapse.

The ISF was still preparing for the next phase of the Battle of Mosul. Iraqi planes dropped millions of leaflets over west Mosul telling people to prepare for their coming liberation. General Najim Jabouri said that engineers were building pontoon bridges, which will be used to cross the Tigris River, while paving the areas that will be used as on ramps. Some information about the role of the Hashd in the coming operation was also released. The Al Abbas Division, which is loyal to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani may not be deployed inside the city itself, but rather work with an army brigade to seize the road from Mosul to Tal Afar to the west. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi said that no Hashd would enter Mosul in attempt to deal with fears of locals that they would commit abuses. Ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani was allowed in as it assisted the 16th Division to take some northeast neighborhoods, but they have just been told to leave because an arrest warrant was issued for Nujafi. The Shiite Hashd units were ecstatic to announce that their forces would take part in the western assault, but the premier may be sticking to his promise to not permit their entry.

More and more people are returning to their homes in Ninewa. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ situation report said that some 4,300 people from three camps had departed from January 25 to 28. Civilians were looking to re-unite with their families and their homes.

Iraq’s parliament declared the Ninewa Plains a disaster area. It consists of the Hamdaniya, Sheikhan, and Tal Keif areas, which are to the north and south of Mosul. 80% of the buildings and infrastructure there are damaged or destroyed. The damage from the fighting has kept many people from going back to those areas.

Finally, the Supreme Judicial Council decided to re-open the Ninewa Federal Court. It will have offices in Hamdaniya, and help with the reconstruction process in the province.

SOUCES

Buratha News, "Recent developments in the field of liberating Mosul until 20:10 pm Monday 30 12 2017," 1/30/17

Face Iraq, “Military preparations completed to storm the area west of Mosul to free it from Daesh,” 1/30/17
- "Military sources: the martyrdom and wounding of 18 civilians by Daesh artillery fire on eastern Mosul neighborhoods," 1/30/17

Al Forat, "21 terrorists killed and the destruction of 6 vehicles, including car bombs in Tal Afar," 1/30/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Curfews adopted to counter IS shelling of recaptured Mosul areas,” Iraqi News, 1/30/17
- “IS block fighters’ escape routes to Syria, impose new taxes on Mosul residents,” Iraqi News, 1/30/17
- "PMUs kill 35 Islamic State fighters west of Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/30/17

New Sabah, “Joint Operations is preparing smart and sophisticated weapons to liberate the right bank of the city of Mosul,” 1/30/17

Shafaaq News, “Army riveting pontoon bridges over the Tigris in preparation for storming West Mosul,” 1/30/17
- “Iraqi aircraft drop leaflets on West Mosul: Get ready for the battle,” 1/30/17
- “The military buildup of force preparing to storm western Mosul,” 1/30/17
- “Re-opening the Nineveh Court,” 1/30/17
- "Wounding two civilians bombed by Daesh south-east Mosul," 1/30/17

Al Sumaria, "Daesh killed three members of one family in shelling north Mosul," 1/30/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: Flash Update – 30 January 2017,” 1/30/17


Monday, January 30, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 104, Jan 29, 2017


The Iraqi Forces (ISF) and Hashd were both preparing for the next phase of the Mosul campaign. The Joint Operations Command announced that Federal Police units were moving into central Mosul to prepare to cross the Tigris and attack the west. The Diyala battalion of the Golden Division arrived in the city, and the 9th Division was setting up its heavy weapons. The Hashd continued to talk about how important the 6th phase of their operations will be, which includes participating in the new assault on Mosul. The Al Abbas Division of the Hashd is supposed to take part, but it’s not clear in what capacity. The ISF are still resting and re-supplying after three months of fighting. In a few more days they will likely go back into action. The Hashd in Tal Afar district have been holding ground since November. As more time has passed, and they have less to do they have been issuing more boisterous propaganda releases. Baghdad changed its policy and decided that they will be allowed to take the town, despite a deal with Turkey, because it doesn’t have any army of police units to spare because of Mosul. That means they will be back in action soon.

There were more articles about the arrest warrant issued for former Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi. Al Mada noted that the head of the Ninewa We Are Coming command General Abdul Yarallah said that Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani or Ninewa Guards would help secure and clear east Mosul, and then 24 hours later said that they would be excluded because of the warrant. That was more evidence that the ISF were not behind this, but rather politicians were. Nujafi has many opponents, and his actions after east Mosul were freed were not helping. He was walking through the city like he freed it and claimed that his Hashd were going to be given 30 neighborhoods to control. That’s since been retracted, and the Hashd al-Watani has been told to leave the city. Nujafi was hoping that the Mosul operation would help him return to power, but that plan has been cut short due to this new controversy.

The ISF has captured thousands of Islamic State documents. Some of those have been released to the press, specifically ones showing that foreign members were trying to leave Mosul by claiming a variety of sicknesses. It was not clear whether these were fighters or just part of the group’s bureaucracy. The foreign fighters were said to be the last ones standing in east Mosul, while many of the Iraqi members fled to the west. The papers do show problems within the group, but they are also part of the propaganda the Iraqi government is pushing that IS is a broken force.

The Islamic State on the other hand is still showing persistence. For the third or fourth time IS fighters launched a river attack across the Tigris upon an east Mosul neighborhood on January 28. January 29 they attacked the Fasiliya neighborhood, and another small force was found trying to infiltrate the east as well. These were all turned back. It has continued mortar, rocket, and drone attacks on liberated areas of the city as well. It assaulted three towns to the south and west of Mosul as well. One of those was on Hamam al-Alil deep in liberated territory showing IS cells are still active there.

More evidence of the group’s atrocities was also discovered. A grave with 27 bodies of Turkmen was discovered in Mosul’s Rashidiya area in the northeast. Every time an area is liberated from the insurgents evidence of massacres are usually revealed.

Aid agencies had both good and bad news about the thousands of displaced in Ninewa. As of January 26 the International Organization for Migration counted 159,006 people registered with the government and NGOs. The Iraqi Red Crescent reported that 10,125 people had left the Khazir and Hasan al-Sham camps to return to Mosul. At the same time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that authorities were blocking aid groups access to the camps they run. Also the problem of detaining male members of families for suspecting ties to IS is continuing, and that some of them have been tortured as a result. Another issue is that 46% of the displaced from Mosul are missing their documents like birth and marriage certificates and IDs. The last is very important because people cannot get assistance from the government like food rations and cash payouts for being displaced without their identification.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Army forces find mass grave containing remains of 27 Turkmens near Mosul," 1/29/17

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Mosul Operations Data Snapshot: 26 January 2017,” 1/29/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Jan. 28, 2017," 1/29/17
- "Inside Mosul: Jan. 29, 2017," 1/29/17

Iraqi Red Crescent Society, “More than 10 thousand people return to their homes within last weak inside Mosul,” 1/29/17

Al Maalomah, "Federal Police destroyed three car bombs at the entrance to the right bank of Mosul," 1/29/17

Al Mada, “Nineveh Guard: We received orders from al-Abadi to participate in the liberation battles,” 1/29/17

Al Masalah, “Popular crowd: the sixth stage of the Mosul operation will end the existence of Daesh,” 1/29/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Documents: IS militants demand repatriation citing funny illnesses,” Iraqi News, 1/29/17
- "Iraqi police head to western Mosul, child, 3 militants killed by drones," Iraqi News, 1/29/17
- "Police kill 9 IS militants south of Mosul, IS kill 4 PMU fighters in west," Iraqi News, 1/29/17

New Sabah, “Activating arrest warrant in the event of Nujafi’s presence in Mosul,” 1/29/17
- “Federal Police advancing towards the left bank of Mosul in preparation for storming it,” 1/29/17

Shafaaq News, "Killing a man and injuring his wife and three children in Daesh pounding of East Mosul," 1/29/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Mosul Weekly Protection Update, 21-27 January 2017,” 1/27/17


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


I was quoted by Paul iddon in “Is Iraq relying too heavily on elite special forces?” in Al Araby, and by Wladimir van Wilgenburg in "Shia paramilitary groups to enter Iraq's Tal Afar despite Turkey's Opposition" in ARA News. Was mentioned by Rudaw in "UN warns west Mosul residents at 'extreme risk'" and in "The fight for Mosul: An assessment of ISIS tactics, key vulnerabilities" by Mike Furlong for Fox News. That last article was also reprinted by Shafaaq News.

Several books on Iraq and the Middle East have mentioned my work as well. Iraq: People, History, Politics by Gareth Stansfield, Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards by Afshon Ostovar, Sectarian Politics in the Persian Gulf by Lawrence Potter, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory by Brian Fishman, The Politics of International Intervention: The Tyranny of Peace by Mandy Turner and Florian Kuhn, ISIS: Battling the Menace by Patrick Cockburn, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency by Charles Lister.

Effect Of Iranian Propaganda On Iraq


Iran is now concentrating upon the war in Syria, but from 2014-15 Iraq was its major focus. When the Islamic State swept through Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Kirkuk provinces in the summer of 2014, Tehran was the first to offer assistance to the Iraqi government. Military support was only part of Iran’s program however. It also launched a sophisticated propaganda campaign to promote itself as the savior of Iraq. This was carried out on social media mostly via Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. At the center of this effort was Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander General Qasim Suleimani. He appeared on all the major battlefronts in Iraq again and again on the Internet. The success of this campaign was shown in a survey done of pilgrims to the Shiite shrine in Karbala.

Gen. Suleimani seen visiting the Tirkit front in 2015 (Al Alam)

A group of three researchers working for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology interviewed 1,668 Iranians and 2,410 Iraqis during Arabaeen in Karbala in 2015. Those questioned overwhelmingly supported Iran’s policies in the Middle East. When asked what motivated Iran in the region the most popular response for Iraqis, 40.68%, was to protect Shiite communities. That compared to 27.33% of Iranians selecting that choice. That showed how effective Iran’s propaganda campaign was within Iraq. Iraqis felt like Tehran was helping them more than Iranians themselves. This was of course in the middle of the war with the Islamic State, Iraqis were still feeling vulnerable, and when Iran was pumping up its role in Iraq far above the U.S. led Coalition, which preferred having the Iraqis claim responsibility for their victories. Other factors shaping the response would be the negative view most of those interviewed had of America, as well as religious Shiites being more open to Iran’s role then others. In contrast, a plurality of Iranians, 39.28% believed that national security was the main driver of Tehran’s foreign policy.

What motivates Iran’s policy in the
Middle East?
Iraqis
Iranians
Creating a more stable Middle East
9.07%
22.87%
Ensuring Iran’s security
28.21%
39.28%
Maximizing Iran’s regional influence
22.04%
10.53%
Protecting vulnerable Shiite communities
40.68%
27.33%

SOURCES

Christia, Fotini, Dekeyser, Elizabeth, Knox, Dean, “To Karbala: Surveying Religious Shi’a from Iran and Iraq,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 10/20/16

Christia, Fotini, Dekeyser, Elizabeth and Knox, Dean, “Mapping Shiite Opinion,” Foreign Affairs, 10/24/16


Mosul Campaign Day 103, Jan 28, 2017


January 28 was the fourth day with a pause in operations in the Mosul campaign. The biggest news however didn’t come from the battlefield, but on the political front. That came from the Joint Operations command that announced an arrest warrant for ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi. Nujafi already had a warrant out for him from October for his collaboration with Turkey. Previously, his unit the Hashd al-Watani also known as the Ninewa Guards worked with the 16th Division and helped free nine villages and neighborhoods on the northern front, and was securing the Hadbaa neighborhood. Given that collaboration, the new warrant had to have come from political opponents. For example, one parliamentarian from Ninewa Ahmed al-Jabouri complained that turning over parts of Mosul to the Hashd al-Watani was a betrayal. Other politicians made similar statements the day before. Nujafi is extremely unpopular in Baghdad due to his alliance with Turkey and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, and has rivals within Ninewa as well. Like the first warrant however, this new one is unlikely to be carried out as Nujafi can go back to Irbil where he has been based, and where orders from the central government are rarely carried out.

Inside Mosul there was limited activity. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) continued to shell west Mosul as it made plans to assault that side of the city. Mosul Mayor Hussein Hajim accused the Islamic State of making random arrests and executions in the west to maintain its control. There’s likely to be at least a week of inactivity while the Iraqi units rest and refit after their grueling battle to subdue east Mosul. After that an assault will be launched on the west.

There was another report that IS still has access to Syria. The Voice of America had a story that IS was moving back and forth from Mosul to Syria. The Hashd reached Tal Afar to the west of Mosul in November and were tasked with cutting off all of the insurgents’ supply lines to Syria. That apparently has not happened.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, “Islamic State conducts random arrests and executions in western Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/28/17

Buratha News, “Deputy for Nineveh: Delivery of left bank of Mosul to Atheel Nujafi a betrayal of the martyrs,” 1/28/17

Al Maalomah, “Parliamentary security said good preparation for the battle of the right bank of Mosul,” 1/28/17

Al Mada, “Joint operations Najafi’s popular crowd out of left bank of Mosul,” 1/28/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi forces shell Islamic State locations in western Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/28/17
- “Joint forces to arrest former Nineveh governor if found in Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/28/17
- “Photos: Mosul activists replace Islamic State graffiti with delightful murals,” Iraqi News, 1/28/17

Shafaaq News, “Najafi: political pressure managed to pry Nineveh Guard from Mosul,” 1/28/17

Al Sumaria, “Report confirms Daesh still able to move between Mosul and Syria,” 1/28/17


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 102, Jan 27, 2017


The Islamic State continued to make defensive preparations in west Mosul and to carry out harassing attacks. In the middle of the night IS fighters launched a river assault on two neighborhoods in east Mosul. The army and Rapid Reaction forces turned them back. The insurgents were still forcing people out of their houses along the Tigris River to use them as fighting positions. Out in the Tal Afar district to the west the militants also attacked the Hashd in Tal Ikssiba. Iraqi and U.S. officials claim that IS is a broken force, but they are still putting up a fight for now.

The Iraqi forces (ISF) and local officials have been warning of Islamic State sleeper cells in east Mosul. The ISF has been searching homes, and trying to screen residents looking for IS members and sympathizers. Those warnings were realized on January 27 when two suicide car bombs went off in Rashidiya in the northeast. That was the last district of the city liberated. The explosions left 12 dead and 21 wounded. This will be a continuous threat since most of the population in the east stayed inside the city making it much harder to check them all.

That issue is made the more complicated by the fact that the government does not have enough personnel to secure the city. One official claimed Mosul needs roughly 15,000 police. Some have called for dismissed officers to be brought back, but Baghdad rejected that idea saying they want a new police force that has been trained by the U.S. led Coalition. The problem is those forces are not in the city or ready yet. That has led the army, Federal Police and Hashd al-Watani to fill that void. The last group for example is in the Hadbaa neighborhood in the northeast. This will be made worse when west Mosul is attacked and the army and Federal Police has to move out of the areas they are currently holding.

Another dilemma is what to do with suspected IS families. A member of the Ninewa council believes only a small percentage of the city falls under this category. Still, there is some talk of putting IS sympathizers in a camp. That would not only be a form of collective punishment, but would make the families perpetual outcasts. The proposal has been made in Anbar as well, so it has some standing with provincial governments.

As part of the next phase of the Mosul campaign the town of Tal Afar to the west is finally going to be attacked. Originally, this was supposed to be done by the army and police. The town was reached two months ago, but the ISF never made a move because they were too busy with Mosul. Now the Iraqi command has decided to task the Hashd with the job. This breaks an agreement Baghdad made with Turkey that the Hashd would not enter Tal Afar. Ankara vociferously protested that the Hashd should be kept out because they would abuse the population. Again, Mosul is taking all the ISF’s attention, and they do not have the forces to do Tal Afar at the same time, so this choice was made out of necessity. Turkey has yet to comment on the move.

Finally, the pro-Iran Hashd forces in west Mosul again threatened the Kurds. Asaib Ahl Al-Haq spokesman Jawad Talabawi said that if the Peshmerga did not withdrew from the areas that they took during the Mosul campaign as they promised Baghdad, than the Hashd would attack them. Talabawi claimed expelling the Kurds would be easier than the fight against the Islamic State. Tehran linked Hashd groups have had a running feud with the Kurds for years now, especially Kurdish President Massoud Barzani who they claim is grabbing territory, trying to divide Iraq, and is an ally of Turkey. This has led to occasional clashes and a constant war of words between the two.

SOURCES

AIN, “Nineveh we are coming, declares the ground forces that will take the left bank of Mosul,” 1/27/17

Coles, Isabel, “Fear in interrogation room, death in the street: Iraq roots out Islamic State,” 1/27/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Jan. 26, 2017,” 1/26/17

Karim, Soran, “Shi’ite Militia Leader Threatens to Attack Peshmerga,” Bas News, 1/27/17

Langendorf, Manuel, “Mosul: A glimmer of hope in the battle against Islamic State,” World Weekly, 1/26/17

Al Mada, “Baghdad to exclude 20,000 Mosul police and assisting Najafi to grab land,” 1/27/17
- “Life returning to the left bank of Mosul and anti terrorism forces awaiting orders to cross the river,” 1/27/17
- “Nineveh We Are Coming: assigned the freeing of Tal Afar to the popular crowd,” 1/27/17

NINA, “Al-Asadi –Zero hour to break into Tel Afar, just around the corner,” 1/26/17

Rudaw, "two car bombs explode in east Mosul," 1/27/17

Sotaliraq, "Dead and wounded by a car bomb in the north Mosul," 1/27/17

UN Children’s Fund, “UNICEF Iraq Mosul Response Flash Update No.5, December 20 2016-23 January 2017,” 1/23/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: Flash Update – 26 January 2017,” 1/26/17


Friday, January 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 102, Jan 26, 2017


January 26 was the second day of the pause in operations between taking east Mosul and attacking the west. That didn’t mean the Iraqi Forces (ISF) were out of action. The 9th Division announced it took Shreikhan. This is a town north of the city, which was first declared freed on January 24. Inside the city the Federal Police were clearing areas of explosives. The ISF were also looking for potential suicide bombers. U.S. Colonel John Dorrian warned of Islamic State sleeper cells hiding amongst the population that could later carry out attacks. Just last week a suicide bomber was gunned down approaching a checkpoint. With so many people staying within Mosul there was no way to screen them, which means there are likely IS members still there. The civilian population has been providing intelligence to the ISF to hunt down these members, but they will remain a threat.

There are not enough ISF available to secure the city while the combat forces move onto the other half of the city. That means the government has to call on others. A Shabak Hashd Brigade is within the city. So is ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani, also known as the Ninewa Guards. They fought alongside the 16th Division in northeast Mosul, and now have been given some areas of the city to hold. This is a boost for Nujafi is who attempting to rebuild his base.

Retired General Alsodani Ismael wrote a piece on how the first half of the battle went down. The original plan was for the ISF to reach Mosul from the north, east, and south at the same time to spread out the Islamic State defenders. Instead the north and south stalled and the Golden Division reached the east very early on. Two of the army divisions in the north were brand new and had never seen combat before. Some of the commanders were unfit and inexperienced as well. He called for special operations raids, attacking on multiple fronts, and maneuvering in the next phase. The Golden Division were carrying out targeted attacks to eliminate IS commanders. The ISF is pushing a quick assault on the west, which probably involves a frontal assault across the Tigris. They could also move forces to the south and attack from there. The problems the Iraqi forces have in coordinating multiple fronts was exposed in the initial attack upon the city, and they may not have had time to improve. On the last point, the ISF was eventually able to attack across three broad fronts in east Mosul, which eventually connected together. Whether the units are up for a more dynamic plan is yet to be seen. Some Iraqi commanders have said the west Mosul fight will be completely different from the east.

The fate of Tal Afar in the west is becoming clearer. Early on in the campaign the Hashd reached the town, which was then to be taken by the ISF. This was in part due to strenuous objections by Turkey claiming that the Hashd would commit abuses. Recently National Security Advisers Falah Fayad said the Hashd could enter Tal Afar. General Abdul Yarallah added to that by saying that the Hashd supported by the Iraqi Air Force would liberate the town. That change may be due to a lack of army and police forces to take it, while assaulting Mosul at the same time. This will be a huge victory for the Hashd. They have talked about protecting the Shiite Turkmen in the area. The Iranian linked units would also like a presence there because it is a gateway to Syria. That would allow Tehran to move men and material straight across from Iran through Iraq to Syria. If that happened it would be highly ironic. Tal Afar used to be the route Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Assad government ferried in foreign fighters into Iraq to destabilize the country. Now Iran wants to use it to prop up the Syrian regime.

Over the last seven days the number of displaced (IDPs) in Ninewa has decreased, but it is still the highest amount since the Mosul campaign began. According to the International Organization for Migration, there were 159,252 IDPs registered with the government and aid groups on January 20. That went up to a high of 161,238 on January 23, but then after that went down each day to 159,006 on January 26. That compared to 116,292 displaced at the end of December. In 28 days there has been an increase in 42,714 IDPs. With the attack on the other half of Mosul coming up there will be another wave of people fleeing the fighting.

Each day more people are going back to their homes, and the rebuilding has begun. Since October 16 roughly 28,980 people have returned, and that figure is going up. Bas News was in Tel Keif, which was recently liberated. Almost 3,000 people were back, shops were re-opening, and the city council wanted to start projects to restore power and water. In Mosul, the Ninewa council held a meeting with the mayor to assess damage to the city. It opened offices in three neighborhoods to try to restore services and governance. Parliament’s human rights committee called on Prime Minister Haider Abadi to start paying salaries again to people in the liberated areas. Students from Mosul University are pushing for the campus to be repaired and re-opened. Slowly but surely the populace and authorities are trying to get Mosul and the surrounding area back up and running. This appears to be happening much faster than in other cities.

Finally, there were new casualty figures. Based upon reading over 40 papers a day and releases by aid agencies a total of 5,404 deaths have been counted and 16,983 wounded from October 17, 2016 to January 21, 2017. The vast majority of those are civilians with 4,741 killed and 14,842 injured. The Islamic State has been accused of executing 2,798 people. Coalition air strikes have been blamed for another 561 fatalities and 653 wounded. The fighting caused the rest.

Casualties From The Mosul Campaign 10/17/16-1/21/17
5,404 killed
4,741 killed
487 ISF
102 Hashd
70 Peshmerga
2 Kurd CT
1 US Sailor
1 Hasdh al-Watani

16,983 Wounded
14,842 Civilians
1,824 ISF
253 Peshmerga
59 Hashd
5 Hashd al-Watani

SOURCES

AIN, “A parliamentary committee calling for the government to pay salaries in the left bank of Mosul,” 1/26/17

Associated Press, "Iraqi troops push into IS-held villages north of Mosul," 1/26/17

Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field during the process of liberating Mosul until 12:10 pm Thursday 26 01 2017,” 1/26/17

General Ismael Alsodani, “The Operation to Eradicate ISIS in Mosul has Turned into a War of Attrition,” Delhi Defence Review, 1/26/17

Hemid, Leyla, “3,000 IDPs Return to Recently Liberated Town of Tel Kef, Mosul,” Bas News, 1/26/17

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #13 – Mosul Operations From 17 October To 26 January,” 1/26/17

Al Jazeera, “Mosul University after ISIL: Damaged but defiant,” 1/26/17

Kossov, Igor, “Iraqi troops scour eastern Mosul for Islamic State suicide bombers,” USA Today, 1/25/17

Al Maalomah, “Disclosure of military units during the freeing of right bank of Mosul,” 1/26/17

Al Mada, “Nineveh Council decides to open offices of mayor in left bank in Mosul,” 1/26/17

Al Masalah, “Defense: The process of freeing the right bank of Mosul will be launched very soon,” 1/26/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "14 killed in eastern Mosul shelling, forces continue clearing last IS pockets," Iraqi News, 1/24/17

Robson, Seth, “US general: Liberation of Mosul involves ‘hardest’ urban combat in recent history,” Stars and Stripes 1/26/17

Shafaaq News, “Nineveh Guard support the security forces in the task of keeping the left coast of Mosul safe,” 1/26/17


Violence In Iraq, Jan 1-21, 2017

In the first three weeks of January the Mosul campaign was the main driver of violence and casualties in Iraq. From January 1-21 there were 488 incidents reported in the press. Of those, 236 were in Ninewa, or 48% of the total. Those incidents led to 1,398 deaths and 3,654 wounded. 950 of the fatalities, 67%, and 2,919 of the injured, 79%, were from the Battle for Mosul. Baghdad used to be the center of attacks in the country, but those have been cut in half since Mosul started. In September 2016 there were an average of 10.8 incidents per day, which dropped to 4.7 by December. That’s slightly up to 5.8 per day in the first twenty-one days of January.

On January 5, a new, but short-lived campaign in west Anbar was launched. The stated goal was to liberate the last towns in the province along the Syrian border. Al Mada quickly pointed out that this was not all that it was cut out to be as Prime Minister Haider Abadi didn’t officially announce it. It also noted that the United States had opposed previous operations because it didn’t want to interfere with the Mosul campaign. In November for example, Baghdad wanted to push on western Anbar, but the Americans intervened. The campaign only lasted around two weeks. A tribal leader told Al Mada, that it would not restart until Mosul was freed. In total around 11 villages were taken, and the Islamic State did not put up much of a fight for them.

While incidents have gone down in Baghdad, mass casualty bombings are up. When the government launched the Mosul operation in October, the Islamic State countered with a car bomb campaign in the capital. In September there were 2 successful vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in the capital with 2 more dismantled or destroyed. In October that went up to 4 bombings, then 7 in November, 9 in December, and then 13 so far in the first three weeks of January. A member of the Baghdad security committee accused the security forces of taking bribes from IS to allow their bombers through checkpoints. This has been true for years. This also coincided with the government deciding to take down concrete barriers and checkpoints in sections of the capital at the end of December. Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi promised surveillance cameras and other forms of electronic security measures, but that has not materialized. Given the inability of checkpoints to stop previous bombings it’s unclear whether their removal really had any effect. IS has also changed its tactics. It is reportedly moving from the residential areas to the suburbs and moving assets around to try to prevent them from being discovered.

Car Bombs In Baghdad January 2016-January 21, 2017
Month
Car Bombs
Jan 2016
3
Feb
1
Mar
0
Apr
8
May
13
Jun
1
Jul
4
Aug
3
Sep
2
Oct
4
Nov
7
Dec
9
Jan 1-21, 2017
13

Diyala is one of the provinces where IS is re-organizing and ramping up its operations. From January 1-21 there have been 33 incidents for an average of 1.5 per day. In October 2016 there were 1.4 incidents per day, but that went down to 0.9 in November and 0.8 in December. These have included temporary seizing of towns, attacks on checkpoints, suicide bombings, and car bombs. Before most of the attacks were small shootings and IEDs with regular mass casualty bombings. Now Diyala is seeing large numbers of IS fighters in bigger operations. A Diyala parliamentarian from the Supreme Council called on the prime minister to open an investigation into the security failures, and blamed commanders for negligence. Badr head Hadi Ameri is in charge of security in the province with the Iraqi forces in a support role to his Hashd units.

In Kirkuk the Islamic State has one of its last strongholds in Hawija. The provincial government is increasingly calling on Abadi to free the area, but with Mosul going on that’s not going to happen right now. Hawija is turning out to be a major source of instability not only in Kirkuk but neighboring governorates as well. Cells from Hawija have been blamed for carrying out attacks in Salahaddin for example. There are constant reports of executions within the district, and displaced people being killed trying to escape.

Along with Diyala, Salahaddin is the other province seeing an uptick in insurgent activity. In the first three weeks of January there was an average of 1.6 incidents per day, the highest amount since June 2016 when there were 1.7. Just like in Diyala IS has moved from small hit and run and IED incidents to larger, more organized operations. On January 2, 9 suicide bombers attacked Samarra and were able to seize two police stations before being expelled and killed. Members of the provincial council have talked about IS cells operating in various areas. Also like Diyala, most of the security duties in Salahaddin are under the control of the Hashd. This has caused problems. The head of the Salahaddin council for example talked about too many different security forces in Samarra with overlapping duties and a lack of cooperation that has led to gaps, which have been exploited by the Islamic State.

Violence In Iraq By Month 2016-2017
Month
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan
723
2,418
1,986
Feb
657
1,685
1,724
Mar
683
1,685
2,095
1st Qtr Daily
Avg/91
22.6
63.6
63.7
Apr
630
1,840
1,904
May
675
1,644
2,484
Jun
631
2,111
6,455
2nd Qtr Daily
Avg/91
21.2
61.4
119.1
Jul
531
1,329
1,708
Aug
574
1,263
1,376
Sep
573
1,203
1,602
3rd Qtr Daily
Avg/92
18.2
41.2
50.9
Oct
589
2,965
2,376
Nov
599
4,389
3,972
Dec
583
1,559
11,681
4th Qtr Daily
Avg/92
19.2
96.8
195.6
Jan 1-7
185
509
1,346
Jan 8-14
166
306
1,044
Jan 15-21
137
583
1,264

Violence In Iraq, Jan 1-7, 2017
Security Incidents
185
Dead
509
21 Sahwa
38 Hashd
71 ISF
379 Civilians
Wounded
1,346
4 Hashd
45 ISF
1,282 Civilians
Shootings
48
Bombs
76
Car Bombs
19
Suicide Bombers
18
Car Bombs Destroyed
115
Suicide Bombers Killed
38
Anbar
10 Incidents
15 Killed: 2 Civilians, 3 Hashd, 10 ISF
26 Wounded: 12 ISF, 14 Civilians
3 Shootings
1 IED
3 Suicide Bombers
1 Rockets
1 Suicide Bomber Arrested
3 Suicide Car Bombers Arrested
Baghdad
46 Incidents
126 Killed: 2 Hashd, 7 ISF, 117 Civilians
221 Wounded: 4 Hashd, 217 Civilians
4 Shootings
31 IEDs
1 Sticky Bombs
2 Suicide Car Bombs
6 Car Bombs
1 Mortar
Diyala
14 Incidents
33 Killed: 2 Civilians, 3 ISF, 12 Hashd, 16 Sahwa
15 Wounded: 3 ISF, 12 Hashd
10 Shootings
1 IED
Kirkuk
7 Incidents
2 Killed: 2 Civilians
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
2 Shootings
1 Car Bomb Destroyed
Najaf
1 Incident
10 Killed: 3 Civilians, 7 ISF
15 Wounded: 15 Civilians
1 Shooting
2 Suicide Bombers
1 Suicide Car Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
Ninewa
90 Incidents
282 Killed: 15 ISF, 16 Hashd, 251 Civilians
1,028 Wounded: 12 ISF, 1,016 Civilians
16 Shootings
9 IEDs
3 Suicide Bombers
3 Suicide Car Bombs
7 Car Bombs
10 Mortars
3 Rockets
13 Suicide Bombers killed
10 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
93 Car Bombs Destoryed
Salahaddin
16 Incidents
45 Killed: 2 Civilians, 5 Sahwa, 5 Hashd, 29 ISF
40 Wounded: 19 Civilians, 21 ISF
11 Shootings
2 IEDs
4 Suicide Bombers
1 Mortar
10 Suicide Bombers killed
5 Car Bombs Destroyed
Sulaymaniya
1 Incident
1 Grenade

Violence In Iraq, Jan 8-14, 2017
Security Incidents
166
Dead
306
2 PAK
9 Hashd
21 ISF
274 Civilians
Wounded
1,044
3 Peshmerga
3 PAK
5 Hashd
14 ISF
1,019 Civilians
Shootings
40
Bombs
68
Car Bombs
10
Suicide Bombers
5
Car Bombs Destroyed
97
Suicide Bombers Killed
20
Anbar
13 Incidents
7 Killed: 7 ISF
6 Wounded: 6 ISF
5 Shootings
1 Car Bomb
16 Suicide Bombers Killed
2 Suicide Car Bombers Arrested
7 Car Bombs Destroyed
Babil
3 Incidents
2 Killed: 1 Civilian, 1 Hashd
1 Shooting
Baghdad
45 Incidents
62 Killed: 2 ISF, 60 Civilians
206 Wounded: 2 ISF, 204 Civilians
7 Shootings
33 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
2 Suicide Bombers
1 Suicide Car Bombs
3 Car Bombs
Basra
1 incident
1 IED
Diyala
11 Incidents
18 Killed: 3 Civilians, 4 Hashd, 11 ISF
12 Wounded: 2 Hashd, 4 Civilians, 6 ISF
5 Shootings
11 IEDs
1 Car Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed
5 Car Bombs Destroyed
Kirkuk
5 Incidents
10 Killed: 2 PAK, 8 Civilians
3 Wounded: 3 PAK
1 IED
Ninewa
78 Incidents
187 Killed: 4 Hashd, 183 Civilians
811 Wounded: 811 Civilians
18 Shootings
4 IEDs
2 Suicide Bombers
4 Car Bombs
4 Mortars
3 Rockets
5 Suicide Bombers Killed
81 Car Bombs Destroyed
Salahaddin
9 Incidents
20 Killed: 1 ISF, 19 Civilians
6 Wounded: 3 Hashd, 3 Peshmerga
4 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
Wasit
1 Incident
1 Car Bomb Dismantled

Violence In Iraq, Jan 15-21, 2017
Security Incidents
137
Dead
583
6 Hashd
249 ISF
328 Civilians
Wounded
1,264
13 Hashd
230 Civilians
1,021 ISF
Shootings
29
Bombs
41
Car Bombs
7
Suicide Bombers
5
Car Bombs Destroyed
61
Suicide Bombers Killed
11
Anbar
10 Incidents
11 Killed: 5 Civilians, 6 ISF
37 Wounded: 2 Hashd, 38 Civilians
2 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
2 Rockets
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
Babil
1 Incident
Baghdad
32 Incidents
27 Killed: 2 ISF, 2 Hashd, 23 Civilians
87 Wounded: 2 Hashd, 85 Civilians
6 Shootings
20 IEDs
2 Sticky Bombs
1 Car Bomb
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
Basra
2 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
2 Shootings
Diyala
8 Incidents
22 Killed: 2 Civilians, 20 ISF
8 Wounded: 8 ISF
5 Shootings
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Suicide Car Bomb
Dohuk
1 Incident
Kirkuk
6 Incidents
17 Killed: 17 Civilians
22 Wounded: 22 Civilians
2 Shootings
2 IEDs
Ninewa
68 Incidents
481 Killed: 210 ISF, 271 Civilians
1,080 Wounded: 80 Civilians, 1,000 ISF
6 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Suicide Motorcycle Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
4 Car Bombs
1 Rockets
12 Mortars
3 Grenades
9 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
52 Car Bombs Destroyed
Salahaddin
9 Incidents
24 Killed: 4 Hashd, 9 Civilians, 11 ISF
30 Wounded: 8 Civilians, 9 Hashd, 13 ISF
6 Shootings
1 IED
1 Mine

SOURCES

AIN, “Deputy from Diyala demanding Abadi open an investigation into the causes of the failure of security plans in the province,” 1/20/17

Antonopoulos, Paul, “Iraqi forces storm western Anbar capturing 11 villages from ISIS,” Al Masdar News, 1/7/17

Hemid, Leyla, “Baghdad Residents Demand Security in Public Demonstrations,” Bas News, 1/9/17

Iraq Oil Report, “IS guerilla campaign intensifies in Diyala, Salahaddin,” 1/19/17

Al Jazeera, "Baghdad: ISIL claims attack in busy Sadr city market," 1/2/17

Al Maalomah, “200 members of the popular crowd enter Sakra western Anbar to secure it,” 1/18/17

Al Mada, “Americans leading the Western Anbar military operation announced by Baghdad,” 1/6/17
- “Liberated area four times and because of lax security threatens security in Salahuddin,” 1/7/17
- “Operation to free western Anbar areas stopped for second time in 3 months,” 1/16/17
- “Salahuddin Council accused factions of the popular crowd from preventing the return of displaced people and threatened to internationalize issue,” 1/4/17

Middle East Eye, “Iraq forces launch operation to retake western area,” 1/5/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Army recaptures 8 km between Islamic State Anbar strongholds,” Iraqi News, 1/5/17
- “Baghdad official :security personnel complicit with Islamic State,” Iraqi News, 1/3/17

Rudaw, "UPDATED: Curfew imposed in Samarra after armed attacks on police," 1/2/17

Saleh, Ibrahim, “An Agile Opponent: Extremists Change Tactics in Baghdad,” Niqash, 1/19/17

Sattar, Omar, “Why is Baghdad removing checkpoints during security crisis?” Al Monitor, 1/5/17

Sotaliraq, "Samarra operations: more than five suicide bombers killed and the situation is under control," 1/2/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi female journalist set free after abduction by gunmen,” 1/4/17
- "Suicide bombers attack 2 police stations in Iraq's Samarra," 1/3/17

Mosul Campaign Day 156, March 23, 2017

Poor weather again hindered the Iraqi forces (ISF). The Federal Police halted their operations for the day because ai...