Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 134, Feb 28, 2017


The Iraqi Forces (ISF) were mostly consolidating their hold on the areas they took in west Mosul, while two more advances were announced, but not corroborated officially. First, on February 27 a large attack by the Islamic State was turned back at the Ghazlani Base that was freed on February 24. Apparently not all of the camp had been taken either as the Federal Police cleared a Mosque there. On February 28 Iraqi officers claimed Wadi Hajar and Dawas were liberated. Those have not been made official yet however. Otherwise the ISF were going through Hawi al-Josaq and Mamun looking for IEDs and any left behind IS fighters. Engineers started work on constructing a pontoon bridge across the Tigris River where the Fourth Bridge used to stand before the U.S. Coalition bombed it. The bridge is suppose to allow more forces to flow into west Mosul as well as supplies.

There were several reports on the difficult conditions within west Mosul. Reuters went along with a unit from the Rapid Reaction Division, which is moving along the Tigris River. Police talked about how the layout of the city with its winding roads and dense housing was slowing the advance. Two articles by Iraq Oil Report noted that Coalition and ISF shelling and air strikes were causing a high number of civilian casualties. Some buildings IS were using as fighting positions had civilians hiding in the basement who were killed when they were hit by Coalition planes. ISF shelling on Wadi Hajar and Mamun also killed and wounded a large number of people. Residents said they saw people trapped in collapsed buildings. During the day 31 people were said to have been killed by ISF fire and another 10 wounded. Finally, the Islamic State lined up 33 former police officers along the Tigris River and executed them. That was to intimidate the Iraqi forces and civilians on the other side of the river. Another 10 people were killed by IS mines, and 3 died and 2 were wounded by its mortar fire. West Mosul is very compact and there are several hundred thousand people still living there. Together that makes any shelling or bombing missions likely to cause collateral damage. The insurgents have consistently fired mortars and rockets upon liberated areas. This is mostly going unreported however.

To the west and south of Mosul the army and Hashd are going through a number of towns. The 9th, 15th, 16th Divisions and the Al-Abbas Division liberated six villages from February 27 to 28. This is meant to shore up the perimeter around Mosul.

Despite all the heavy fighting going on the Iraqi government returned to its propaganda releases. Federal Police General Raed Shakir Jawadat was quoted as saying that the Islamic State’s leaders were fleeing Mosul, and that the group was falling apart. Iraqi officials have been talking about IS being defeated since October.

To the west General Najm Jabouri the commander of Ninewa Operations said that the 15th Division would take Tal Afar. Who would be given this task has been a point of contention since the Mosul operation started in October. Originally the Hashd were given control of the area west of Mosul including Tal Afar. Then Turkey put up such a fuss about it that Baghdad signed an agreement with Ankara to have the army and police to take the town. Nothing happened however as the ISF were too bush with Mosul to spare any units. Next National Security Adviser Falah Fayad stated that there was nothing to stop the Hashd from entering Tal Afar. They continued trying to cut Islamic State supply lines in the area however rather than heading for the village. Next, the Ninewa council let it be known that the ISF was in charge of Tal Afar again. There doesn’t appear to be any consensus on the issue as all the back and forth highlights. That might also be a reason why Tal Afar has been left alone so far.

Southwest of Mosul near Qayara a tribal Hashd group found another mass grave of victims of the Islamic State. It was estimated that up to 100 bodies might be found there. Everywhere the insurgents have been cleared from these murder sites have been discovered marking their destructive rule in northern Iraq.

The Mosul operation has led to a new wave of displaced. Around 14,000 people have fled according to the government. The International Organization for Migration reported that 3,000-4,000 civilians arrived at camps and another 6,000 were waiting at checkpoints outside Mosul. This is far more than left when east Mosul was originally entered.

The story of the United States dropping supplies to the Islamic State in Tal Afar continued. Two members of the parliamentary security committee brought it up. One claimed he had documents on 26 cases of the U.S. led coalition providing aid to IS, and called for an investigation. Another gave similar stories and called on the government to take action. Pro-Iranian Hashd groups have been spreading these reports since 2014. They play upon the plethora of conspiracy theories prevalent throughout Iraq. Many believe that the Americans are behind the Islamic State and if not directly its allies are. This sentiment is so strong that even Baghdad sometimes denies what Washington is providing in the fight against IS.

SOURCES

CBS News, “As ISIS squeezed, “desperate” civilians flee Mosul,” 2/28/17

Coles, Isabel, “Mosul caught in ‘strange and terrifying’ battle as Islamic State foreign soldiers fight to the end,” Reuters, 2/28/17

Coles, Isabel and Chmaytelli, Maher, “U.S.-backed Iraqi forces close in on IS-held Mosul government buildings,” Reuters, 2/28/17

International Organization for Migration, “IOM Iraq Sees Surge of Internally Displaced from Mosul as Fighting Intensifies,” 2/28/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 27, 2017,” 2/28/17
- “Inside Mosul: Feb. 28, 2017,” 2/28/17

Al Maalomah, “Parliamentary security committee calls for the government and the air defense to reveal the actors involved in dropping aid to Daash in Tal Afar,” 2/28/17
- “Parliamentary security committee documented 26 cases of international coalition aircraft delivering aid to Daesh,” 2/28/17

McKirdy, Euan, Khadder, Kareem, and Alkshali, Hamdi, “Iraqi commander: ISIS leaders ‘running away’ from Mosul,” CNN, 2/28/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Army close to invading Tal Afar, more than 900 militants killed in western Mosul,” Iraqi News, 2/28/17
- “Officer; forces begin installing floating bridge to western Mosul,” Iraqi News, 2/28/17
- "UPDATED: Iraqi troops take over western Mosul district, village," Iraqi News, 2/28/17

New Sabah, “Joint Forces liberated the Turkish consulate and other areas in West Mosul,” 2/28/17

Rojkan, Mira, “Iraqi Forces Continue to Retake Ground Against IS in Mosul,” Bas News, 2/28/17
- “Mosul: Iraqi Forces to Use Floating Bridge Over Tigris River,” 2/28/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi forces control both ends of key bridge on Tigris river,” 2/28/17
- “Iraqi forces encircle western Mosul district, target ISIS with airstrikes,” 2/28/17

Shafaaq News, “What happened during the last 24 hours of battle in Mosul?” 2/28/17


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 133, Feb 27, 2017


Iraqi forces are fighting over the Mosul neighborhoods just north of the Ghazlani Camp and Mosul Airport

The Iraqi forces continued to fight over south Mosul. Hawl al-Josaq north of the Mosul Airport and Tal Ruman on the northwest perimeter of the city were declared freed by the police forces and the 9th Division respectively. Those two neighborhoods were said to have been liberated on February 24. Dandan next to Hawl al-Josaq along the Tigris River was still contested after the Iraqi Forces (ISF) said they took it on February 25. After capturing Mosul Airport the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division have moved up the bank of the Tigris to secure the western side of the Fourth Bridge. This is where the ISF plan on building a pontoon bridge across the river. That’s being done by the 310th Engineering Company. It’s common to have the ISF say a place has been taken multiple times. Sometimes this is propaganda, sometimes its because a unit has moved through an area calling it freed, but then follow up forces have to actually check to make sure all the Islamic State fighters have been rooted out. Other times there is re-infiltration.

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and New Sabah had articles on the battle inside west Mosul. The LA Times was with a unit from the Golden Division in Wadi Hajar detailing how intense the fighting was there. The soldiers were taking fire from all sides and couldn’t advance as a result. The NY Times noted some of the tactics the Islamic State was using. The Iraqis are attacking on multiple fronts trying to stretch out the militants. IS is responding by concentrating on what it thinks is the major line of advance. New Sabah got reports from the ISF that the insurgents were burning oil, tires, and abandoned homes in an attempt to obscure the view of drones and aircraft flying over head. This is a tactic that the group has used for years. It was also confiscating cars to be used as car bombs or block streets. Before the new operation started the government was pushing the line that IS was a defeated force. Its leaders and fighters had fled, it had lost control over its men, that its morale was low, etc. As it turns out the militants are resisting just like they did in east Mosul. The question is how long will it take to break through their defenses and liberate the entire city.

US M109s at Hamam al-Alil (Mustafa Habib) 

The New York Times ran a piece on the fire support the U.S. led coalition is providing. In Hamam al-Alil south of Mosul the U.S. has deployed M109 Paladin 155 mm self-propelled guns. Still further south in Qayara the Americans have M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). France also has an artillery unit deployed in the area. Apache helicopters join the planes and drones carrying out strikes on Mosul. The U.S. is trying to help with the IS drone threat by bombing areas believed to they are based out of. These multiple weapon systems have all been in use in Ninewa for some time. What is different is that the Trump administration has allowed the forward deployment of Special Forces and shortened the time between ISF when units call for help and how long it takes the Coalition to respond. That will greatly help with the ISF advance.

Now that the battle for west Mosul has begun there is hardly any coverage of what’s going on in the east. Two suicide bombers were killed trying to get into the Salam Hospital and set off their devices. These types of attacks are meant to sow fear among the population and that appears to be working as fewer people are now returning.

A new wave of people is now fleeing west Mosul. General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi of the Golden Division said that around 1,500 were seen leaving the city on February 27. The day before, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNHCR) reported that there were 8,800 new displaced. NGOs are trying to build capacity at three camps to the south of the city to accommodate them. The UNHCR noted that around half of the internally displaced lacked legal documents. IDs are crucial to move around the country to get through checkpoints, and to receive government assistance. The U.N. is attempting to assist them with this issue. The World Food Programe is also putting together food packages for those fleeing since many people have little subsistence in the western half of the city. It appears far more people are leaving west Mosul then exited the east.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi forces battling Islamic State reach Mosul bridge,” Associated Press, 2/27/17

Adel, Loaa, "Iraqi forces recapture Tal Rumman village in western Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/27/17
- "Iraqi police kills 2 IS suicide bombers south of Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/27/17

AIN, “Urgent…commanders of counter terrorism forces: the displacement of more than 1,500 civilians today from West Mosul,” 2/27/17

BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi forces seize key bridge,” 2/27/17

Bulos, Nabih, “Islamic State is showing stunning resistance as Iraqi troops try to breach west Mosul,” Los Angeles Times, 2/27/17

Gordon, Michael, “U.S. Forces Play Crucial Role Against ISIS in Mosul,” New York Times, 2/26/17

Hussein, Sara, “In Iraq’s desert, mass grave horror beneath the dirt,” Agence France Presse, 2/27/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 25, 2017,” 2/27/17

Al Jazeera, “Forces push into western part of ISIL-held Mosul,” 2/27/17

Khadder, Kareem and Alkshail, Hamdi and Formanek, Ingrid, “Iraq army seizes key Mosul bridge in ISIS battle,” CNN, 2/27/17

Al Maalomah, "The killing of 30 terrorists and four car bombs destroyed right bank of Mosul," 2/27/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Iraqi forces recapture northwestern Mosul village, PMUs kill 15 militants," Iraqi News, 2/27/17

New Sabah, “Daesh burning everything on the right bank of Mosul,” 2/27/17
- “Joint forces free Tayaran neighborhood and area in Josaq to the fourth bridge in West Mosul,” 2/27/17

NINA, "Rapid Reaction Forces Storm The First Popular Area In The Southern Axis Of Mosul," 2/25/17

Shafaaq News, "Full details of the last 24-hours of battle in Mosul," 2/24/17

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Mosul Humanitarian Response Situation Report No. 21 (20 February – 26 February 2017),” 2/26/17

World Food Programme, “WFP Concerned About Desperate Reports Coming From Families Inside Western Mosul,” 2/27/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces push further into IS-held western Mosul,” 2/27/17
- “Iraqi forces seize strategic bridge, extend grip in western Mosul,” 2/27/17


Monday, February 27, 2017

Violence In Iraq Feb 15-21, 2017


Violence remained high in Iraq as the Mosul campaign continued. There were a total of 145 security incidents reported in the press. Ninewa obviously had the most with 75, followed by 42 in Baghdad, 7 in Diyala, 6 in Salahaddin, 5 in Anbar, 4 in Kirkuk, 3 in Basra, 2 in Kurdistan, and 1 in an unknown location.

Those led to 381 dead and 505 wounded. Ninewa suffered 195 killed, Baghdad had 111, Kurdistan 42, Kirkuk 11, Salahaddin 9, Anbar and Diyala 5 each, 2 in an unknown location, and 1in Basra.

Anbar only had 5 incidents during the week. That consisted of two insurgent attacks, an IED, and a shooting of a family attempting to flee Islamic State controlled territory in the western section of the province. The biggest however was the kidnapping of 17 truck drivers outside Ramadi, which has caused some controversy. That’s because no one knows who committed the act and thus everyone has been blamed from IS to tribal fighters to the Hashd. The low level of violence left 5 dead and 6 wounded.

The insurgents have been picking up their activities in Baghdad. That was seen by their continued car bomb campaign in the capital province. There were a total of 3 such bombings along with a fourth that was discovered and dismantled. Added to that were 23 IEDs. Those incidents and more left 111 fatalities and 267 wounded.

There were not as many reported incidents in Basra. The week before there was 10, mostly IEDs in Basra city. The third week of February there was just 3, again all in Basra city including a shooting, a sound bomb, and an IED that left 1 dead. No explanation has been given for the recent increase, but some of it appears to be due to political feuds.

Diyala has seen sporadic attacks, but it is another area where IS has become more active. During the week there were 7 incidents leaving 5 dead and 5 wounded. More importantly IS has several suspected bases throughout the rural and mountainous regions of the province including the Hamin Mountains, Abu Saida and others. Diyala is also suspected of being the major source for car bombs used in Baghdad. Provincial officials are increasingly worried about IS rebuilding there and what that could mean for the future.

Kirkuk is one of the few province where IS still controls territory in the Hawija district. Diyala and Salahaddin officials are complaining more and more that IS cells are moving out of Hawija into their provinces. Kirkuk itself is rather secure with only sporadic violence. There were 4 incidents leading to 11 deaths and 2 injured. 8 of those killed were executed by IS in Hawija on charges that they collaborated with the security forces.

Several times a month Turkey announces air strikes upon Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in northern Kurdistan. Rarely are casualties reported, but during the week Ankara claimed it killed 42 PKK members in 3 air raids.

With the renewed Mosul campaign Ninewa remained the major battlefield in the country. There were 75 incidents, 195 dead, and 224 injured from February 15-21. Many of those attacks were in liberated eastern Mosul as IS has tried its best to undermine security there. During the week there was one car bomb, 3 suicide bombers, and 8 more suicide bombers killed or arrested in the eastern half of the city. That went along with daily mortar, rocket and drone strikes. These constant attacks have driven several thousand people out of the city, and stopped others from returning.

Salahaddin is the final governorate where local officials are worried about the Islamic State’s return. There were just 6 incidents, but one of those was a suicide bomber being killed, another was two car bombs being destroyed, and two others were attacks by the insurgents. IS was never driven from the eastern sections of the province, and they have returned to liberated areas like Tikrit and others leading to the governor and others asking for Baghdad’s help.

Violence In Iraq 2017
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan 1-7
188
509
1,346
Jan 8-14
168
363
1,044
Jan 15-21
137
583
1,264
Jan 22-28
145
289
310
Jan 29-31
74
127
338
JAN
712
1,871
4,302
Feb 1-7
123
388
176
Feb 8-14
164
433
391
Feb 15-21
145
381
505

Province
Violence
Anbar
5 Incidents
5 Killed: 1 ISF, 4 Civilians
6 Wounded: 2 ISF, 4 Civilians
3 Shootings
1 IED
Baghdad
42 Incidents
111 Killed: 111 Civilians
267 Wounded: 10 ISF, 257 Civilians
9 Shootings
23 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Car Bombs
2 Mortars
3 Suicide Bombers Killed/Arrested
1 Car Bomb Dismantled
Basra
3 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
1 IED
1 Sound Bomb
Diyala
7 Incidents
5 Killed: 1 Hashd, 4 Civilians
5 Wounded: 1 Civilian, 4 Hashd
3 Shootings
3 IEDs
Kirkuk
4 Incidents
11 Killed: 1 Peshmerga, 10 Civilians
2 Wounded: 1 Civilian, 1 Peshmerga
2 Shootings
1 IED
KRG
2 Incidents
42 Killed: 42 PKK
3 Turkish Air Strikes
Ninewa
75 Incidents
195 Killed: 10 ISF, 26 Hashd, 159 Civilians
224 Wounded: 16 Hashd, 20 ISF, 188 Civilians
13 Shootings
5 IEDs
5 Suicide Bombers
1 Suicide Car Bomb
4 Car Bombs
2 Mortars
7 Rockets
16 Drone Strikes
44 Suicide Bombers Arrested/Killed
3 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
47 Car Bombs Destroyed/Disabled
Salahaddin
6 Incidents
9 Killed: 9 Hashd
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
4 Shootings
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed
Unknown
1 Incident
2 Killed: 2 ISF

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Official: IS kills 8 Iraqi militia near Tikrit," Associated Press, 2/17/17

Bas News, "18 Killed in Baghdad Blast," 2/15/17

Buratha News, "Unidentified set off sound bomb in front of a residential house in central Basra," 2/19/17

Janssen, Bram, "UN Temporarily Pausing Aid to Eastern Mosul Due to Security," Associated Press, 2/15/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Army says foiled IS attack in western Anbar, killed 7 militants," Iraqi News, 2/20/17
- "UPDATED: Islamic State execute 21 civilians in Mosul, Kirkuk over for helping police," Iraqi News, 2/15/17

Reuters, "Baghdad car bomb kills 51 as Islamic State escalates insurgency," 2/16/17
- "Iraq blast: Suicide car bomb kills at least 15 in Al Sadr; Shia suburb of Baghdad," 2/15/17

Sotaliraq, "Civilian killed by unknown assailants in central Basra," 2/18/17
- "Fatlawi called on the government to immediately free 17 truck drivers kidnapped in Anbar," 2/18/17

Al Sumaria, "Baghdad operations; Security forces seized a car bomb in Sadr City," 2/16/17
- "Daesh kills a woman and injures four civilians while trying to escape them," 2/21/17
- "Home targeted by an improvised explosive device in Basra, and police arrest a man accused of various crimes," 2/20/17
- "Killing one soldier and wounding two others in Daesh attack on checkpoint in Anbar," 2/20/17
- "Three children killed by a roadside bomb west of Ramadi," 2/19/17

TRT World, "Car bomb in Baghdad kills at least seven," 2/22/17

Mosul Campaign Day 132, Feb 26, 2017


Some new areas inside and out of south Mosul were freed. On February 25 the Rapid Reaction Division said it liberated Danadan, which is north of the Mosul Airport and along the Tigris River. On February 26, the Federal Police secured the Harakiyat Ibrahimiya area, which the 9th Division had originally gone through on February 19. The Rapid Reaction and Golden Divisions also took Tayaran and Mamun respectively that are to the west of the Ghazlani camp. The Iraqi forces (ISF) then moved into the Mansour, Shuhada, and Dawas neighborhoods. The ISF were also attempting to secure the area around the Fourth Bridge so that a pontoon bridge can be constructed there across the Tigris River.

The Associated Press reported that casualties were increasing with the renewed fighting. It said 30 ISF and 200 civilians had been killed and wounded in the last three days. The ISF has said there are less car bombs then compared to east Mosul, but that’s not reflected in statements by the ISF that routinely inflate car and suicide bombings. There has also been a huge number of drone strikes. In one day there were more than 70. These usually only cause injuries rather than deaths, but they have disrupted ISF movements.

There could be a change in plan in the Tal Afar district to the west of Mosul. First, the Hashd announced they had ended the first part of their sixth phase of operations there. At the same time, the Ninewa Council said that the special forces would take the town of Tal Afar itself. Originally the main goal of the Hashd was seizing the town. Then Turkey complained about the negative consequences of such an action and Baghdad signed an agreement with Ankara that the ISF would be given the duty. That never happened, and then the Hashd were again assigned liberating the village. There was no explanation for the newest change. If the ISF are to attack Tal Afar it will likely happen after Mosul because there are not enough forces to do both at the same time.

Pro-Iranian Hashd continued their propaganda against the U.S. in Tal Afar. The day before the Hashd claimed they had video of American planes dropping supplies to IS in the district. Today a Hashd leader told the media that it had documents and film to prove the U.S. Coalition had not only helped IS in Tal Afar, but Baiji and other parts of Iraq along with Syria. An Iraqi security analyst was quoted in Al Maalomah that it was not the Coalition, but rather Turkey that was responsible. There are a number of conspiracy theories surrounding America and Turkey backing the Islamic State. These were just the latest examples.

Human Rights Watch expressed new concerns about the screening process used on displaced in Ninewa. It received reports that Kurdish security and the National Security Service were detaining people after they had been checked. People are routinely held incommunicado and can be held for months with no information given to their families. Obviously people need to be checked for ties to the Islamic State, but the process has always appeared arbitrariness and inconsistent raising the concerns of humanitarian and rights groups.

The number of people returning in Ninewa has slowed down according to the United Nations. Some people in camps who had been cleared to do so have decided not to. Also some families that had gone back to their homes were now once again in the camps. IS attacks, no jobs, high prices, and shortages of food, fuel, water, electricity and medicines have all been cited as reasons for this change.

The new fighting in south Mosul has also led to a new wave of displaced. Up to 3,000 people left the Mamun neighborhood. Several thousand more were seen fleeing in other areas as well. Once the security forces move farther north some of these people can be expected to start returning as they did in east Mosul.

Finally, a new tally is available for casualties caused by the Mosul campaign. This is based upon compiling daily reports from over 40 different sources, mostly Iraqi ones. Because of the Iraqi government not providing figures for its losses and inaccessibility to reporters in many areas of Ninewa these figures should be considered a minimum, as the real numbers are likely much higher.

Mosul Campaign Casualties 10/17/16-2/21/17
6,118 Killed
1 US Sailor, 1 Hashd al-Watani, 1 Iranian Revolutionary Guard, 2 Kurd Counterterrorism, 23 Police, 66 Peshmerga, 136 Hashd, 260 Soldiers, 350 ISF, 5,278 Civilians
19,286 Wounded
5 Hashd al-Watani, 17 Police, 93 Hashd, 250 Peshmerga, 487 Soldiers, 2,798 ISF, 15,636 Civilians

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Federal Police recaptures Harakiyat area south of Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/26/17

AIN, “Popular crowd ended the first phase of its operations west and east of Tal Afar after liberating 12 villages,” 2/26/17

Fox News, “Iraq: Officials recapture new neighborhood in Mosul,” 2/26/17

George, Susannah, “Casualties mount as Iraqi troops advance in IS-held Mosul,” Associated Press, 2/26/17

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq/Kurdistan Region: Men, Boys Who Fled ISIS Detained,” 2/26/17

Hussein, Sara, “Iraq forces in west Mosul aim for key bridge,” Agence France Presse, 2/26/17

Al Maalomah, “Nineveh Council: special forces will take over the task of freeing Tal Afar,” 2/26/17
- “Popular crowd reveals possession of documents and film demonstrating international coalition support for Daesh,” 2/26/17
- “Sharif reveals the identity of the planes that dropped aid to Daesh in Tal Afar,” 2/26/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “UPDATED: Iraqi forces retake 2 major districts following Mosul airport victory,” Iraqi News, 2/26/17

NINA, "Rapid Reaction Forces Storm The First Popular Area In The Southern Axis Of Mosul," 2/25/17

Rudaw, “Dozens of ISIS foreign fighters captured as Iraqi army enters western Mosul,” 2/26/17
- “Iraqi forces recapture two west Mosul neighborhoods,” 2/26/17
- "LIVE UPDATES: Abadi announces start of military campaign for west Mosul," 2/19/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 23 February 2017,” 2/25/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces free first neighborhood from IS in Mosul,” 2/26/17


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

 
I was quoted in “Iraqi Kurdistan fears Maliki returning to power” by Paul Iddon in Al Araby. I did an interview with Radio Sputnik World Service from Moscow on the Trump administration's Iraq policy. I was cited in "Bataille de Mossoul: 4 Semaines de Preparation Intensive Avant L'Assaut Sur L'Ouest De La Ville Declenche Dimanche" by France Soir.

Mosul Campaign Day 131, Feb 25, 2017

(Medecins Sans Frontieres)

As the Iraqi forces (ISF) moved into south Mosul itself their advance slowed down. In the rural villages in the lead up to Mosul there was not much resistance, but now that the city has been reached IS is fighting back with its usual mix of mortars, snipers, drones, and car bombs. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi of the Golden Division said that movement was very slow.

The army, police, and Golden Division were still engaged in Mamun, Wadi Hajar, and Tayaran in the southern tip of the city. The 9th Division did take the power station in Yarmouk, which supplies all of Mosul. Fighting and defending in Mamun was difficult because the streets were not laid out in a grid, making it difficult to block routes to protect against car bombs. IS also flooded part of the neighborhood to impede the movement of the ISF. The insurgents have been forcing people out of their homes to convert them into fighting positions. The ISF claimed that the Islamic State set some buildings on fire when people refused to leave them. IS has always put up an effective urban defense. It has been unable to sustain it over the long run however.

As the government forces reached the city, civilians began to flow out. Reuters reported that around 1,000 people were seen leaving. Many were not from Mosul itself, but were actually from southern towns that were taken as human shields by the Islamic State. One family was from Hamam al-Alil for instance and had been forced into Mosul four months ago by the insurgents. No matter their origin, the ISF were screening all the men as usual looking for IS members.

In the west the Hashd freed four more villages in the Tal Afar district. The Hashd’s main job during the campaign has been to cut the Islamic State’s supply lines reaching west from Mosul to Syria. It is supposed to take Tal Afar itself sometime, but it has not moved on the town yet.

The Hashd also released video footage claiming to be the United States parachuting supplies to IS in the Tal Afar area. Earlier they claimed that U.S. planes had dropped arms and ammunition to the insurgents in the same area, and was helping IS leaders escape. Many of the Hashd units in the west are pro-Iranian and have made these types of charges against the Americans since 2014. It is part of their standard propaganda to undermine the U.S. presence in Iraq.

A few miles south of Mosul the ISF found a mass grave called the “horror hole”. Residents said that IS executed hundreds of people and dropped them into a huge pit outside the village of Athba. The non-governmental organization Iraq Observatory for Human Rights claimed that there could be up to 5,000 people at the site.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul as civilians flee," Iraqi News, 2/25/17

AIN, "Urgent popular crowd free Aziziyah village east of Tal Afar," 2/25/17

Buratha News, “Extended: Latest developments in the field during the Ninewa We Are Coming operation until 17:30 Saturday 25 02 2017,” 2/25/17

Callimachi, Rukmini, “A Ruined Farmer and a Love Letter: Remnants From Fighting in Western Mosul,” New York Times, 2/25/17

Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul as civilians flee,” 2/25/17

George, Susannah, “Conditions deteriorate in west Mosul as Iraqi advances slow,” Associated Press, 2/25/17

Face Iraq, “International coalition artillery bombed Daesh targets from Mosul Airport,” 2/25/17

Makhzoomi, Khairuldeen, “ISIS threw hundreds of bodies in a ‘horror hole,’” Huffington Post, 2/24/17

New Sabah, “Counter Terrorism forces will remain in the Wadi Hajar neighborhood and liberation of villages on the right bank of Mosul,” 2/25/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi forces make large gains in southwestern Mosul a week into third phase,” 2/25/17
- “Iraqi forces seize key power station that supplies electricity to entire Mosul,” 2/25/17

Shafaaq News, “Details on the battle with Daesh and the most prominent achievements of the Iraq forces during the day in Mosul,” 2/25/17

Sotaliraq, “Unidentified aircraft believed to be American drop parachutes on sites under Daesh control,” 2/25/17

World Bulletin, "5 Iraqi soldiers killed in Mosul clashes," 2/25/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces push deeper into IS-held western side of Mosul,” 2/25/17


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 130, Feb 24, 2017


In the last two days the police and armor from the 9th Division moved out of Abu Saif in the south, took the town of Yarmouk. The Golden Div joined in and together they have freed the Mosul Airport, Ghazalni Camp, and entered Tel Ruman, Mamun, Wadi Hajar, Hawl al-Josaq and Dandan. (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

February 24 the Iraqi forces (ISF) secured the Mosul airport and Ghazlani camp and headed north into the city itself. The Golden Division secured Ghazlani, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division, supported by armor of the 9th Division did the same for Mosul airport. Large numbers of Islamic State fighters surrendered to the police at the airfield, something that has not really been reported before. This could point to the insurgents’ morale breaking. The Golden Division then moved into the Maamun Wadi Hajar neighborhoods to the northwest of Ghazlani. The two police units went for Hawl al-Josaq and Dandan, which are directly north of the airport, freeing the latter. The army’s 9th Division and the Hashd’s Al Abbas Division took Tal Ruman that is to the east of Maamun. The ISF were using bulldozers to make new roadways to avoid the main thoroughfares, which have been laced with IEDs. Moving to the outskirts of the city was relatively easy, but now the real fight is beginning as the ISF enter the Mosul itself.

The Hashd in the western Tal Afar district were also busy. They liberated three towns. The Hashd have moved form cutting the supply lines from Tal Afar to Syria to interdicting the lines from Mosul to Tal Afar.

There were constant Coalition air strikes and U.S. Apache helicopters flying overhead as the ISF moved into Mosul. Those were facilitated by U.S. and Coalition advisers, which are now forward deployed at the front with the Golden, Rapid Reaction, and 9th Divisions. The Associated Press talked with U.S. Lt. Colonel James Browning who was working with the 9th Division. He took calls from an Iraqi general on IS locations, which were then confirmed by Coalition surveillance, and then hit with air, helicopter or artillery fire. Before these Iraqi requests would have to be forwarded to the joint operations command in Baghdad before anything could be done taking precious time. Now the call and response period is much quicker. This is part of the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to taking on the Islamic State. As a result, the Americans have loosened the rules of engagement and allowed its troops to be at the front, which has also resulted in casualties. This change in policy will greatly enhance the Iraqis ability to clear areas and advance in the city.

The renewed fighting has led to a new wave of displaced. The Iraq Red Crescent reported that approximately 990 people registered with the government and aid agencies fleeing south Mosul. These civilians were taken to Qayara to the south of the city or to Irbil in the east where camps are set up. For the last few weeks more people were going back to their homes, but that has now been reversed as the battle for west Mosul has begun.

Securing east Mosul is still a major challenge. The National Security Service (NSS) is trying to hunt down IS members. They are collecting information on suspects using information from locals. The NSS however is not the only group doing security duties. There are also army, police, and local Hashd units. These groups hardly coordinate and compete with each other, which has caused all kinds of problems. People are also beginning to complain about the raids and mass arrests. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi is talking about appointing a military governor of Mosul again to try to unify this effort. This idea was brought up before, but nothing came of it. Now that IS is picking up its attacks there is added pressure to try to find a solution.

National Security Service raid in east Mosul (Al Jazeera)

The danger facing east Mosul continued. The Iraqi forces interdicted a large force of IS fighters attempting to cross the Tigris River. More importantly residents said that IS is posting threats to people on social networks. The militants recently put up flyers in an east Mosul neighborhood intimidating people as well. These are very serious because if people feel that they are not safe they will eventually stop providing intelligence to the Iraqi forces. If that happens there is no way to root out the Islamic State and they can start rebuilding their networks in the city just as Baghdad has expended so much energy to try to win over the populace by liberating them.

U.S. general Joseph Votel gave a rough estimate of the Iraqi casualties from the battle for east Mosul. He said 500 Iraqi soldiers died and another 3,000 were wounded. More ISF were reported killed in the press, but only around half as many injured. The real figures may never become public as Baghdad is completely adverse to bad news about the war coming out.

Finally, the Oil Ministry announced that another oil well in Qayara had been extinguished. That leaves three wells still ablaze. The field was set on fire when IS was forced out in August, and has been an environmental disaster ever since.

SOURCES

Al Aalem, “Pictures: large numbers of Daesh in the hands of the Rapid Reaction Forces south Mosul,” 2/24/17

BBC, “Iraqi forces enter IS-held neighbourhood in west Mosul,” 2/24/17

Beck, John, “Hunting down ISIL sleeper cells in Mosul,” 2/24/17

Chulov, Martin, “Iraqi forces seize Mosul airport from Isis as Syrian rebels take al-Bab,” Guardian, 2/24/17

Al Forat, "Foiled Daesh attack in Al Manatiq," 2/24/17

George, Susannah and Szlanko, Balint, “US changes rules of engagement for Mosul fight in Iraq,” Associated Press, 2/24/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Feb. 23, 2017," 2/23/17

Iraq Red Crescent Society, “Iraqi Red Crescent: Increase in the number of displaced people to 990 after operations begin in he West side of Mosul City,” 2/24/17

Kalin, Stephen and Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces push into first districts of western Mosul,” Reuters, 2/24/17

Al Mada, “Founder of the first Nineveh Operations Command is responsible for security in the left coast of Mosul,” 2/25/17
- “Thwarted an infiltration attempt by hundreds of militants into the left coast of Mosul,” 2/25/17

Al Masalah, “Oil Ministry announces extinguishing well #58 in Qayyarah field,” 2/25/17

New Sabah, “The joint forces liberated Ghazlani camp and Mosul airport flying the Iraqi flag over them,” 2/24/17

Rudaw, “LIVE: Iraqi forces enter first district in western Mosul, gain ground against ISIS,” 2/24/17

Salim, Mustafa and Morris, Loveday, “Iraqi jets strike Islamic State in Syria for first time as troops advance in Mosul,” Washington Post, 2/24/17

Shafaaq News, “Full details of the last 24-hours of battle in Mosul,” 2/24/17

Shakir, Sarhad and Qassim, Ahmed, "Iraqi forces take 1st district of W. Mosul: Army source," Anadolu Agency, 2/23/17

Stanglin, Doug, “Iraqi troops battle booby-trapped drones as they enter western Mosul,” USA Today, 2/24/17

Voice of America, “US-backed Iraqi Forces Take Control of Mosul Airport, Enter City,” 2/24/17

Wedeman, Ben, “Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces advance near key area in city’s west,” CNN, 2/24/17