Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 254 Jun 27 2017

Federal Police officer fighting in the rubble of the Old City in west Mosul (Reuters)

Iraqi advances in west Mosul have been steady, while a recent counter attack by the Islamic State in liberated areas of the city has slowed them down. The army’s 15th Division is moving along the northern axes of the Old City and freed Mashahda in the northwest corner of the district. The Federal Police are working along the southern edge of the Old City and down the middle. They freed Bab al-Baid for the second time and Ras al-Jadda. Federal Police commander General Raed Shakir Jawadat said his forces were pushing towards Qurnish along the Tigris River, which would bisect the district in two. At the same time, units from the Golden Division were diverted to Yarmouk, Tanak, and Rajam al-Hadeed where IS launched a surprise attack on June 25. Seven IS fighters were killed in Yarmouk, and the Iraqi forces (ISF) were carrying out mass arrests there, Tanak, and two other neighboring areas. The cordon around the Old City was also tightened to try to prevent any infiltrations by insurgents. Finally, the army’s 9th Division was still attempting to seize the Republican Hospital and other buildings in Shifa, which is to the north of the Old City. Overall, the War Media Cell announced that 50% of the Old City was now under government control, and IS down to seven neighborhoods. On June 25, the Joint Operations Command claim IS had six areas that somehow was only 1% of the Old City, while the Golden Division said 65-70% of the district was cleared. The ISF have made two big thrusts into the Old City to divide it into quarters while others are moving along the north and south perimeter. Progress has been on going, but slow. The IS pocket is collapsing, but it is still putting up a hefty fight. With victory around the corner however, Iraqi propaganda has gone into overdrive with constant stories of IS being done, the fight almost being over, and the constant shifting and contradictory reports on how much is left to be done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 253 Jun 26 2017

Comparison of June 24 vs June 26 shows latest advances by Iraqi forces in Old City (Ninewa Media Center)

Mosul was still recovering from the surprise attack by Islamic State sleeper cells in three liberated areas of west Mosul. On June 25 IS elements attacked Tanak, Yarmouk and Rajam al-Hadeed in the western section of west Mosul. There were only a few fighters, maybe 20 or more, but they were able to sow a huge amount of chaos. They set fire to cars and buildings, and led to hundreds of people to flee. The Golden Division was called in to kill and capture the insurgents. Yarmouk was surrounded, a curfew imposed, some remaining IS members were holding hostages inside a house, and there might have been scattered clashes still going on as well. The Iraqi forces (ISF) were conducting mass arrests in nearby Rashidiya in fears of more IS cells operating there. An investigation was launched by the ISF to discover what happened. Preliminary press reports found that Tanak was supposed to be held by a tribal Hashd unit, but actually had no security for the last twenty days.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 252 Jun 25 2017

Last two days various ISF sources have claimed 50-99% of Old City is freed none of which are supported by latest government map of progress in Old City.  (Ninewa Media Cell)

Smoke hangs in sky from surprise attack by IS in liberated Tanak neighborhood while civilians attempt to flee (Iraq Newspaper)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) predicted that they would have all of Mosul liberated by June 25 the start of Eid. Without having achieved that it made a series of exaggerated propaganda releases. First, a lieutenant colonel from the Golden Division claimed that 65-70% of the Old City was under government control. Then the Joint Operations Command announced that the Islamic State only held 1% of the district. That might have been a mistranslation meaning only 1% of west Mosul, but you can never tell with Iraqi statements. None of these claims were supported by the latest map released by the government, which shows little progress over the last few days.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was cited in “Competing Interests in Shingal District: Examining the PKK-linked Structures, Defusing Tensions,” by Tomas Kavalek for the Middle East Research Institute, and in "Obstacles To Return In Retaken Areas Of Iraq" by the International Organization For Migration. My interview with journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg on the dispute over Sinjar was republished in eKurd.

Mosul Campaign Day 251 Jun 24 2017

Families fleeing the fighting in west Mosul (AFP)

June 24 was another slow day of advances for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in west Mosul. The Federal Police said it freed Bab al-Baid, one of the entrances to the Old City district. Other Federal Police units were pushing into the center of the district towards Farouq Street and the Omar al-Aswad Mosque. The Golden Division were also on the outskirts of the Nouri Mosque, which the Islamic State recently destroyed. A general from the division claimed that 50% of the Old City was now under government control and would be liberated in 10 days. To the north of the Old City the Rapid Reaction Division was still fighting to take the Republican Hospital and sections of the medical complex in the Shifa neighborhood. The ISF and Iraqi government are being overly optimistic as usual predicting that Mosul would be freed in days and overstating how much was taken from the insurgents. The government’s own maps of the Old City for example do not show half of it freed. There are likely a few more weeks of hard combat left before liberation can be proclaimed.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 250 Jun 23 2017

Movement in west Mosul was slow for the day. The Federal Police freed a church in Bab al-Baid, one of the entrances to the Old City district, and were still working their way through Farouq. There was heavy fighting in Bab al-Lakash, Sargakhana, and a few others areas of the district as well. Shifa, which is north of the Old City along the Tigris River was declared freed two times before, but the Rapid Reaction Division is still struggling to clear some buildings there in the medical complex. Overall, the Iraq authorities are hoping to declare the city freed by Eid, which is only a few days away. That’s probably being overly optimistic as there is still a lot of hard fighting ahead.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 249 Jun 22 2017

What’s left of the Al-Hadbaa minaret west Mosul after IS blew it up (BBC)

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were still pushing into the Old City of Mosul from multiple directions, and struggling over Shifa. The Federal Police were fighting over Bab Lakash and Bab al-Baid, two of the entrances to the district, and received reinforcements as well. The Golden Division held 60% of the Mashdah area, which is where the destroyed Nouri Mosque is located. The Defense Ministry officially declared the Shifa neighborhood north of the Old City freed, but in fact, the Rapid Reaction Division was still attempting to take some buildings in the medical complex. The ISF are always over anxious to publicize its victories, and that also leads to many situations like these where an area is called cleared when it’s not.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 248 Jun 21 2017

(Baghdad Post)
(Ninewa Media Center)

As the battle for Mosul comes to a close the Islamic State destroyed the iconic Nouri Mosque and al-Hadbaa Minaret. IS blew up the historic site, while claiming that an American airstrike was responsible. The destruction of the mosque was due to the rapid advance of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which were said to be only meters away. The Federal Police were moving from the south on Bab al-Jadid and Ras al-Jada. The Golden Division and the army’s 16th Division were in the northwest in Farouq. The Rapid Reaction Division was coming down from Shifa in the northeast, which was recently freed. The army’s 9th Division was doing clearing duties in that neighborhood, and then will move along the Tigris River. The strategy is to attack upon multiple fronts and converge towards the middle dividing the Old City into several sections, which will then be swept through.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 246-47 Jun 19-20 2017

Iraqi police fighting in west Mosul’s Old City (AFP)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) made another advance, while the Islamic State is down to just one district under its control in Mosul. First, the army’s 9th Division announced that the Shifa neighborhood was finally freed. That allowed the ISF to also take the western end of the Fifth Bridge across the Tigris River. The Federal Police were still fighting for Bab al-Baid, attacked Bab al-Lakash, and advanced 200 meters into the Farouq area all in the Old City. The Golden Division freed Khazraj in that district as well. The insurgents launched another counter attack into Danadan south of the Old City, but was turned back. Shifa was a difficult battle, holding up the Iraqi forces for almost a month. With that finally under control, IS only holds the Old City. It will likely be the hardest part of the entire campaign because the streets are so narrow military vehicles cannot traverse them, the houses are so densely laid out that artillery, mortars and air strikes will likely take a heavy civilian toll, and the militants have nowhere to go, and will fight to the death. There are already signs of that as more than 200 bodies were said to have been pulled out of the rubble caused by ISF air strikes and artillery over the last few days.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sinjar Dispute Between The Hashd and Kurdistan Democratic Party Interview With Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg


Sinjar in west Ninewa has become a flashpoint between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Hashd (PMU) and Yazidis after the Hashd liberated the remaining villages in the district from the Islamic State starting at the end of May 2017. The KDP immediately condemned the Hashd’s presence leading to a war of words between the two. Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg recently travelled to the district. Here is an interview about what he saw. He can be followed on Twitter @vvanwilgenburg.

Mosul Campaign Day 254 Jun 27 2017

Federal Police officer fighting in the rubble of the Old City in west Mosul (Reuters) Iraqi advances in west Mos...