Friday, January 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 95, Jan 19, 2017


The Golden Division and army were moving inside east Mosul and without. The neighborhood of Arabi was freed for the second time by the Rapid Reaction forces and the Hashd al-Watani. The 15th Division in the north took Fadiliya and Jabir Bin Hayan. The Ninewa International Hotel was declared liberated on January 18, but there were still Islamic State fighters there until January 19 when it was said to be cleared again. The Golden Division took the Presidential Palace as well. In the southeast the Federal Police were still going through areas looking for explosives and booby-traps. Outside Mosul the 9th Division and the Hashd al-Watani freed the town of Tal Keif, which had been surrounded since the Mosul operation began in October.

When all of east Mosul is freed there will likely be a pause to refit and then a push on the western side. A meeting of all the commanders is supposed to be coming that will plan on this next phase of the operation. Pontoon bridges provided by the Americans have already arrived south of Mosul to cross the Tigris. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) may also shift some forces to the south to attack from that direction, which would also mean they would not have to expose themselves to attack during a river crossing.

Everyday there are more stories of IS’s imminent demise. Golden Division General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi told the press that most of the group’s commanders had been killed in east Mosul. Al Sumaria reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave priority to his foreign fighters to be evacuated from east Mosul across the Tigris, which caused consternation amongst the other members. Shafaaq News was informed that the insurgents were suffering fuel and ammunition shortages in west Mosul.

Reuters wrote a piece on the U.S. advisers helping in Mosul. The Americans are involved in daily debriefings with the ISF to go over what worked and what didn’t. Besides air strikes they have also provided real time intelligence.

The number of people displaced from the campaign is continually fluctuating, but they are heading upwards overall. On December 15 there were 96,864 registered with the government and aid groups. That passed 100,000 the next week with 108,624 on December 22. By January 5 there were 132,234 displaced, 144,612 on January 12, and 158,928 on January 19. There were over 160,000 for two days during the third week of January, but then around 4,000 people returned. Those figures did not include several thousand people going back and forth within Mosul, which never signed up with any group or the authorities.

Niqash talked with three people who got out of Mosul. Ahmad al-Haj was a former textile worker from Zuhur. His family was now in Khazar Displaced Camp east of Mosul. The Golden Division came to his house and was attacked by a suicide bomber. That fighting led him to flee. Isbal Hussein said Mosul was like a prison under the Islamic State with the militants killing people for any little reason. She escaped by boat across the Tigris having to get through several IS checkpoints. Finally, Amin Miqdad was a young musician who had his instruments confiscated by IS. The militants said they were going to beat him him when they came to his house, but didn’t follow through with their threat. He moved afterward and was able to get some new instruments to continue his music. What the stories showed was how people persevered while living under the Islamic State. Some defied the rules like Amin, while others were able to escape like Isbal.

Iraqi News visited Qayara. In August 2016 IS set some of the oil fields there on fire, and many of the wells are still ablaze. They are putting up huge toxic clouds. Health officials said people were suffering from respiratory problems. A farmer blamed the fires for killing his animals. The Oil Ministry is attempting to put the wells out, but around half of them have yet to be extinguished.

There have been over 20,000 casualties since the start of the Mosul battle in October. Based on tracking reports in more than 40 papers per day including aid agencies there have 4,923 fatalities and 15,903 wounded. Civilians have been the biggest victims with 4,470 dead and 14,762 injured. Another 277 members of the ISF, 102 Hashd, 70 Peshmerga, 2 Kurdish Counterterrorism members, 1 Hashd al-Watani and 1 U.S. sailors have been reported killed, and 824 ISF, 253 Peshmerga, 59 Hashd, and 5 Hashd al-Watani wounded. The Islamic State has been accused of executing 2,749 civilians. Another 497 dead and 643 injured were blamed on Coalition Air Strikes.

Battle for Mosul Casualties Oct 17, 2016-Jan 14, 2017

4,923 Killed
1 U.S. Sailor, 1 Hashd al-Watani, 2 Kurd CT, 70 Peshmerga, 102 Hashd, 277 ISF, 4,470 Civilians

15,903 Civilians
5 Hashd al-Watani, 59 Hashd, 253 Peshmerga, 824 ISF, 14,762 Civilians

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Army's 16 brigade destroyed 17 car bombs north of Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/16/17

Al Forat, “Ninewa We Are Coming announces freeing 37 people and killed more than 20 terrorists in Mosul,” 1/19/17

International Organization for Migration, “Iraq: Displacement Tracking Matrix, Emergency Tracking – Fact Sheet #12 – Mosul Operations from 17 October to 19 January,” 1/19/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Jan. 19, 2017," 1/19/17

Kalin, Stephen, “Iraq counts on U.S. advisers, mostly out of sight, in war on Islamic State,” Reuters, 1/19/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi army seizes presidential palaces in northern Mosul’s Tel Kaif,” Iraqi News, 1/19/17
- “Iraqi sheep, locals, environment suffer Islamic State oil fires,” Iraqi News, 1/19/17
- “Most Islamic State commanders in Mosul already killed, Iraqi general says,” Iraqi News, 1/19/17
- "UPDATED: Army recaptures govt buildings, hotel in northern Mosul's Tel Kaif," Iraqi News, 1/19/17

Niqash, “Three Stories From Inside: Iraqis Who Escaped Mosul Tell Their Personal Tales,” 1/19/17

Rudaw, “UPDATED: Iraqi forces take full control over Tel Kaif, north of Mosul,” 1/19/17

Shafaaq News, “Sources: Daesh suffers from acute shortages of fuel and ammunition in west Mosul,” 1/19/17

Al Sumaria, "Nineveh We Are Coming, declares presidential palaces in Mosul freed," 1/19/17
- “Source: Al-Baghdadi cleared his foreign fighters first and some arrived barefoot,” 1/19/17

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces recapture IS-held town near Mosul," 1/19/17


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 94, Jan 18, 2017


The Iraqi Forces (ISF) made more dramatic advances in east Mosul on January 18. The Golden Division freed eight neighborhoods, the archaeological site in the center of the city, and attacked the Presidential Palace, declared cleared yesterday. The army freed Qadiya in the north, and attacked Arabi. The Hashd in the west took two towns as well.

The biggest news of the day was the announcement that east Mosul was freed. This was partially misinterpreted by the press and exploited by the government for propaganda. General Talib Shaghati of the Golden Division said that east Mosul had been taken. General Abdul Amir Yarallah elaborated that just meant the unit had taken all of the areas that it was assigned in the battle plan. Southeast Mosul was freed a few days ago, and now the central section is now under control as well. There was still fighting in the northeast. General Yahia Rasoul stated the Islamic State remained in four districts in the north. In fact, one major pointed out that there was still some clashes going on along the Tigris River in the center as well. 

With most of east Mosul taken the focus is now beginning to shift to the west. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi of the Golden Division was preparing to attack the other half of the city in a few days. There was some disagreement about how the next phase of the battle would go. A few Iraqi commanders believe that the west will be easier because of the heavy losses IS has suffered. The Americans are more cautions warning that it might be tougher since it is a more built up area. There’s no telling which point of view is correct until the west is assaulted.

With the recent gains the ISF is capturing a treasure trove of insurgent documents. Two communication centers were taken, and military intelligence has found huge stashes of computer files and documents, including information on foreign fighters. Some captured material showed that IS fighters didn’t want to fight and were asking for transfers to Syria and out of Mosul. These papers just support what was already witnessed on the battlefield as IS defenses collapsed in just a few days after the offensive was renewed at the end of December.

Deutsche Welle was the latest to report on how life is trying to return to normal in sections of east Mosul. In some areas people were cleaning up and trying to do some shopping, even in areas with mortar fire. In Gogjali, which is just outside of the city, life was more bustling since it was the first area freed. One problem is that the government and aid agencies have not delivered enough supplies to the liberated areas. People also do not have jobs, which means they have little money.  That will likely be a major issue for several weeks since the government is unlikely to restart payment to its former workers or restore offices and services until the entire city is freed. Until that happens there will only be very small business activity as the authorities fuel buying power in the country as the largest employer.

SOURCES

Ade, Loaa, "Al-Hashd al-Shaabi liberates 2 areas in Nineveh Plain," Iraqi News, 1/18/17

AIN, “New We Are Coming: freed eastern axis of Mosul, not the Left Coast,” 1/18/17

BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi army prepares offensive on west of city,” 1/18/17

Buratha News, "Counter terrorism forces storm the presidential palaces on the left coast of Mosul," 1/18/17

Coles, Isabel, “Iraq special forces chief says mission accomplished in east Mosul,” Reuters, 1/18/17

Deutsche Welle, “Life returns to Mosul neighborhoods freed from IS,” 1/18/17

Al Forat, “Defense: the northern axis of Ninewa operations made significant progress on the left coast,” 1/18/17

Gladstone, Rick, “Iraqi Forces Take Eastern Mosul From Islamic State,” New York Times, 1/18/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Jan. 18, 2017," 1/18/17

Al Malomah, “Abdul Wahab al-Saadi: our troops are ready to break into the right side of Mosul,” 1/18/17
- “Pictures: Daash documents reveal unwillingness to fight in Mosul and their desire to leave,” 1/18/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Command denies reports that eastern Mosul was officially liberated," Iraqi News, 1/18/17
- Mohamed, “Iraqi general sees easier battles in western Mosul, American sees opposite,” Iraqi News, 1/18/17

New Sabah, “Abadi announced approaching the full liberation of Mosul,” 1/18/17
- "The Joint forces on the verge of freeing the left coast of Mosul within days," 1/17/17
- “Treasure of Daesh information in the grip of military intelligence,” 1/18/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi counter-terror forces declare victory in E. Mosul, clashes in north ongoing,” 1/18/17

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq military: Troops have ‘full control’ of eastern Mosul,” Associated Press, 1/18/17

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces seize main part of eastern Mosul from IS," 1/18/17



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 93, Jan 17, 2017


The Islamic State is in full collapse in east Mosul with 11 neighborhoods falling on January 17. The Golden Division freed all of them along with the Great Mosque, the Presidential Palace, and the Ninewa Hotel. In the north, the army took the Kindi military base. The entrances to all five bridges across the Tigris River were secured as well. There was still fighting in the Ghabat area. The mayor of Mosul Hussein al-Hajem said there were only 4-7 areas in east Mosul still under IS control. Iraqi officials are always given to exaggeration and have claimed that almost all of the Left Coast side of the city was taken. Those statements have finally been realized with roughly 90% of eastern Mosul occupied.

The press was full of other examples of IS faltering. The Golden Division claimed that the insurgents didn’t even put up a fight for the neighborhoods in northeast Mosul it took during the day. IS fighters were seen fleeing across the Tigris in boats taking civilians with them as human shields so that the ISF would not fire on them. In west Mosul the militants were forcing people to join as fighters, and taking family members as hostages to enforce its draft. The big question is whether this will carry over to the next phase in the battle.

After all of east Mosul is liberated there will likely be a pause to rearm and refit and then an assault will be made across the waterway into the western Right Bank. Preparations are already being made. 5 pontoon bridges arrived at the Qayara base south of Mosul to be used to cross the Tigris. U.S. advisers have also taken up positions in four areas of east Mosul. That will provide forward operating bases to further assist the Iraqi forces with air strikes, artillery and missile fire, intelligence collection, etc.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "CTS liberates 2 more areas, storm Jazair neighborhood in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- "CTS liberate areas of Suez and Sanharib, station near Choser River," Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- "Security forces recapture 3 districts, Great Mosque in central Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/17/17

AIN, “Urgent anti-terrorism commander: 48 hours separate us from completing our tasks in the left coast of Mosul,” 1/17/17

Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field in the process of liberating Mosul until 14:50 Tuesday 17 01 2017,” 1/17/17
- “Recent developments in the field in the process of liberating Mosul until 16:00 Tuesday 17 01 2017,” 1/17/17

Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqis who escaped Islamic State grapple with trauma,” Reuters, 1/17/17

Al Mada, “Saadi: We killed 387 Daash in Mosul within the last 74 hours and we will liberate the left coast soon,” 1/17/17
- Saadi: one neighborhood separates the counter terrorism forces from the complete liberation of left coast of Mosul,” 1/17/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi forces push into IS-held pocket in Mosul: military,” Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- “IS kill mother, child escaping eastern Mosul, force civilians to fight in west,” Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- “Only 4-7 districts left to recapture eastern Mosul, militants bodies litter Tigris,” Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- “U.S. forces erect 4 military bases in Mosul preparing for new combat plans,” Iraqi News, 1/17/17
- "Updated: Iraqi forces recapture 3 neighborhoods in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/17/17

New Sabah, "The joint forces on the verge of freeing the left coast of Mosul within days," 1/17/17

Reuters, "Iraqi Forces Push Into IS-held Pocket in Mosul," 1/17/17

Rudaw, "Iraqi forces control all five bridges in Mosul, ISIS 'nearly defeated' in east," 1/17/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces in near full control of IS stronghold in eastern Mosul,” 1/17/17


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Interview With Agence France-Presse’s Ahmad Mousa On The Battle For Mosul


Ahmad Mousa is an Iraqi video journalist working for Agence France-Presse. In the last few months he has been working in Ninewa covering the battle for Mosul. Here are a few of his thoughts on how the campaign has progressed and what it has meant for the city and people. Mousa can be followed on Twitter @AhmadMousaQ

Smoke from a car bomb going off in eastern Mosul (Ahmad Mousa)

1. Mosul has been shelled and hit by air strikes plus all the street fighting for months now. What does the city itself look like?

Unlike some previous battles against IS, such as in Ramadi, where infrastructure and houses were largely damaged and destroyed, Most of the buildings and infrastructure is still standing in Mosul, especially residents’ houses, as there are hundreds of thousands are still living in them. However, some buildings, infrastructure and houses were damaged or destroyed during, or before, the fight.

A man fleeing the fighting in eastern Mosul (Ahmad Mousa)

2. There is a huge movement of people within and to and from the city itself. What is life like for the city’s residents?

In neighborhoods where the fight takes place, some of the residents flee their homes because of IS mortar shells that area falling, snipers, strikes and car bombs, so the scene of a large number of people fleeing those areas could be seen every day. While others decide to stay and watch from their doors as the troops advance.

3. There are constant stories of shortages and the lack of services like power and water within Mosul. Are the government and aid agencies getting into the city to provide assistance?

There is a shortage of services like water and power in Mosul, some people are managing to get power from generators, for limited periods during the day, in the neighborhoods others don’t have. Government and aid agencies are getting to the areas that were liberated in the beginning to help provide aid and services.

4. How do you think the battle will progress?

For all the success made in the eastern side of Mosul, spearheaded by the Counter-Terrorism Service but the fight is still on and there’s another half of the city still under IS control, with narrow streets, in the western side, and intensively populated old areas where vehicles can’t pass, there are many scenarios could happen along the way, including exceeding the second timeframe for the battle given by the Prime Minister.


Mosul Campaign Day 92, Jan 16, 2017


The Iraqi Forces (ISF) made more advances in central and northeast Mosul on January 16. In the north, the 15th and 16th Divisions freed Arabi, Qairawan and Kindi. In central and northern Mosul the Golden, 15th and 16th Divisions took the Nabi Younis shrine and Taqafa. In the center and south the Golden Division seized Jammasa and Majmoaa. Finally, in the southeast the Golden Division, Rapid Reaction forces and elements of the 9th division freed Shurta, while the army and Federal Police were also clearing areas taken in the last few days. The ISF found a large group of IS fighters in Andalus that was declared liberated yesterday. After they were defeated the neighborhood was marked as occupied once again.

The Islamic State is in a state of disarray, while trying to cope with its losses. There was another story about IS leaders fleeing Mosul for the west. Similar rumors have been heard since the Mosul campaign started in October. The militants set off explosives on the Third Bridge in the middle of the city to try to deny its use to the government forces. That caused a large section of the span to collapse. In east Mosul the group was forcing people from their homes to try to get them to retreat west with it to be used as human shields. It was burning homes and cars of those that did not comply, and firing on the others that tried to flee to the government’s side. It was also destroying more government buildings in its mini-scorched earth policy. Last, the ISF accused the militants of distributing month old videos of its operations within the city to make it seem like it was still fighting hard instead of falling back. IS has done that before in previous battles to keep up morale. Even with all these setbacks there are still split opinions on how the fight for west Mosul will go down. IS could have lost most of its fighters and the next phase will go quicker. It might be just as hard as the first half, or it might even be harder since the west is more densely populated and more built up with houses and buildings.

Much has been said about the United States’ increased support for the government in the second phase of the Mosul campaign, but there are other members of the Coalition. France 2 aired video of French Special Forces working right at the front with the Golden Division clearing an area in east Mosul. The French have deployed with the Peshmerga and the Golden Division for more than two years.

Reuters had a piece on how the fighting in Mosul has disrupted families’ ability to bury their dead. One family lost their mother, but because of shelling couldn’t go to the cemetery so they had to bury her in the backyard. When things stabilized they dug up the body and interned it in Gogjali graveyard. That story symbolized life for those that have stayed in the city. When there was fighting in their neighborhood life was upset and people had to shelter in their home or with others, but when that passed they could start putting things back together.

Rudaw talked with the President of Mosul University Dr. Obay Saeed al-Dewachi who was already talking about rebuilding the school. The physical destruction done to the facility was extensive because it has been hit by air strikes and artillery heavier than other parts of the city because there were no civilians there. Another major problem is the loss of staff. Dr. Dewachi said that 56 lecturers were executed by the Islamic State and another 20 killed during the fighting. The president already had talks with the Ministry of Higher Education about how to proceed. This is a huge task, but it’s good that plans are underway to try to revive this important school.

Aid groups continued to worry about the humanitarian situation within Mosul. They are afraid of shortages of food and services in west Mosul. Assistance also has to be delivered to people in the liberated areas of east Mosul.  The U.N. and other groups are handing out emergency packages. The government is starting to restore the food ration system to parts of the city. Services however are sporadic and there are fears that food is running short. There are three trauma centers close to the front to provide triage to civilians and ISF killed and wounded in the fighting, and there are plans to build another.

People continue to flow out of Mosul. From January 9 to 15 around 12,500 new displaced were registered. Most of those came from east Mosul and went to camps in Kurdistan or south of the city in the Qayara district. Of the 140,000 total displaced 87% are in camps. Since there are tight restrictions on letting people out of these places the aid groups are trying to provide all of the amenities like schools. The tough conditions in the camps and the lack of freedom of movement has been one factor that has led to so many people staying in Mosul rather than leaving.

Finally, during the first two weeks of January there were a reported 465 killed, and 341 wounded. Because of government censorship only 35 members of the joint forces were said to have died, and 12 wounded. In comparison, the U.N. reported that roughly 1,590 ISF were wounded, and 1,410 civilians from the end of December to the second week of January. That showed the huge disparity between what gets into the press and what is really happening on the ground.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, “25 members of Islamic State killed north of Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/16/17
- "Army's 16 brigade destroyed 17 car bombs north of Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/16/17

Agence France Presse, “Iraq forces retake IS-bombed ‘Jonah’s tomb’ in Mosul,” 1/16/17

Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field during the process of liberating Mosul until 17:15 Monday 16 01 2017,” 1/16/17

Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces battle Islamic State near Tigris river in Mosul,” Reuters, 1/16/17

Al Forat, “Ninewa We Are Coming announced the deaths of dozens of terrorists and freed seven neighborhoods in Mosul,” 1/16/17
- "Popular crowd kills five Daash trying to infiltrate a village west of Mosul," 1/16/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Jan. 14, 2017,” 1/16/17
- “Inside Mosul: Jan. 15, 2017,” 1/16/17
- "Inside Mosul: Jan. 16, 2017," 1/16/17

Kalin, Stephen, “Trapped by war, Mosul residents bury their dead wherever they can,” Reuters, 1/16/17

Karim Soran, "IS Fire Wounds Reporter and Cameraman in Mosul," Bas News, 1/16/17

Al Maalomah, “Abdul Wahab al-Saadi: Baghdadi ordered the closure of Diwan offices after foreign fighters turn on members,” 1/16/17
- “Clashes and splits in the ranks of the Daesh criminals on the right coast of Mosul,” 1/16/17

Al Mada, “16th Division up to the heights of the Arabi neighborhood northern Mosul,” 1/16/17
- “Destroyed 17 Daesh car bombs during the liberation of northern axis of Mosul,” 1/16/17
- “Killing 25 Daesh during process of liberation northern Mosul,” 1/16/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Army recaptures two of last few Islamic State-held districts in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/16/17
- “UPDATED: Army invades Shurta district in eastern Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/16/17

New Sabah, “Daesh organization fragmenting and losing control of its members,” 1/16/17
- “The joint forces liberated Kindi north Mosul,” 1/16/17

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Humanitarian Bulletin Iraq, December 2016,” 1/15/17

Ollieric, Dorothee, “REPORT FRANCE 2. Close to the French special forces against the Islamic State in Iraq,” France 2, 1/15/17

Rudaw, “Bombed and burnt Mosul University hopes to once again be top Iraqi school,” 1/16/17
- “Iraqi forces control Nabi Younis Shrine in eastern Mosul as ISIS runs,” 1/16/17

Shafaaq News, “Daesh destroyed a large part of third bridge in Mosul,” 1/16/17
- "Iraqi forces thwart a suicide attack in northern Mosul," 1/16/17

Al Sumaria, “Daesh spreading old videos of its fighters in Mosul,” 1/16/17

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Mosul Humanitarian Response Situation report No. 16 (9 January – 15 January 2017), 1/15/17

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces push further into Mosul amid fierce clashes with IS militants," 1/17/16


Monday, January 16, 2017

Interview With Journalist Florian Neuhof On The Mosul Campaign


Florian Neuhof is a freelance journalist who has written for The National, The Daily Beast, Middle East Eye, and other publications. He has covered the Mosul campaign since it started in October, and embedded with the Peshmerga and Golden Division. Here are some of his observations about the fight. He can followed on Twitter @FlorianNeuhof

1. The original Mosul plan was for the Iraqi army, police and Golden Division to all converge on the city at the same time. The northern and southern fronts stalled however, and the Golden Division got to the city first and was told to push on ahead. Do you have any thoughts on why the campaign fell apart?

It is a bit of a mystery to me why the campaign was so disjointed for so long. I'm not privy to the political and military decision making on the Mosul operation, but it seems to me that Abadi was under pressure to show results, and so decided to send in the Golden Division (GD) before the other forces were ready. I think an underestimation of the defenses also played a part, certainly right at the top, which would explain why the GD charged headlong into Mosul before checking their pace and advancing more methodically.

The poor performance of the army and police may also be down to a lack of time to properly prepare and train these units. In addition, some of the top commander chosen to lead these men seem pretty inept.

2. In just a few days the battle for Mosul has been transformed from a slow slog to a quick advance across most of the eastern section of the city. Why do you think the fight changed so dramatically?

Apart from the reasons given by the coalition - better coordination, more US SF assistance and better tactics - you now have considerably more capable forces in eastern Mosul after the arrival of the Rapid Response Forces and some able police units. And while sending in the GD ahead of everyone else was strategic nonsense, it did soften up ISIS defenses prior to the renewed push early in the new year. The Iraqis where able to replace their destroyed material and beef up their forces. ISIS on the other hand cannot resupply the east bank from the west any more, and has limited manpower in Mosul anyway.

I saw a lot more air support the last couple of times I went into Mosul, which might be a consequence of US special forces getting closer to the action. At the same time, the Iraqi forces are coming up with better ways to deal with suicide car bombers, which have been a real hazard during the past three months. The Rapid Response Forces for instance tell the inhabitants to park their cars across the road as soon as they enter an area, so blocking off avenues of attack. Those two things combined shifts the advantage back to the military in terms of guided ordinance.

3. After east Mosul is freed the next big move will be crossing the Tigris River and taking on the western half of the city. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on what that will be like, the same, harder, or easier than the east. Any predictions for the coming fight?

I fear it will be tougher still. The roads in the old parts of West Mosul are narrow and windy, the neighborhoods more densely packed. Moslawis have told me that support for ISIS is higher in the west. Civilians and soldiers have told me that a lot of the foreign fighters have retreated to the west bank. These fighters have a reputation of being better than local ISIS combatants. The terror group may still have half of its fighters left to defend the west bank.

That said, I think the tactical advantage has shifted to the Iraqi military. ISIS has sprung its surprise by throwing waves of suicide bombers at the attackers, but the military has been able to devise ways of better dealing with these. The ISF should also be able to learn from its mistakes in the past, while the US has realized that it needed to up its support. ISIS on the other hand may well have run out of ideas, recent innovations like dropping grenades from drones have proven pretty ineffective. So hopefully my fears will prove unfounded.

4. You recently wrote about Gogjali, which is just outside east Mosul and is being used as a hub for people going in and out of Mosul as well as supplies, and Sumer that is a neighborhood in the southeast. What is life like for the civilian population in different parts of the city and suburbs?

I visited the areas close to the university yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly some semblance of normality has been restored. Food and fuel seems to be reaching these parts in sufficient quantities, and people are out on the streets and in their cars. That said, I don't think the electricity and water supply has been restored in those areas either. The damage to the infrastructure is significant, not just due to the fighting but also because of the neglect during the ISIS occupation. But only days after the liberation, you can already see work to repair damaged roads underway, and electricity cables being hung.

Mortars are flying in from the other side of the river, and this is likely to remain a problem for a while, while I think there will be terror attacks on civilians by sleeper cells. But these might be less frequent than anticipated, as many ISIS sympathizers followed the retreating jihadists, and the security forces will be able to root out others with the help of the local population.

Mosul Campaign Day 91, Jan 15, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued to plow through northeast Mosul. The 15th and 16th Divisions took Kafat 2 in the north. The Golden Division took Andalus next to the Mosul University. It was also clearing Nassir and Faisaliya nearby, and the school itself, as well as areas in the southeast along with the Federal Police. The Mosul Airport in the south was now in range of the ISF, and being shelled before it is attacked. A spokesman for the Joint Operations Command claimed that the government was now in control of 90% of the eastern half of the city, but it’s more like 75%. General Abdul al-Asadi from the Golden Division predicted that all of the east would fall in two days. Whatever the timeframe the battle has significantly changed. No longer are the ISF slogging through the city and continuously retaking the same areas. Now they are rapidly advancing across Mosul.

Mosul University was set on fire by the Islamic State as it retreated (AP)

There were several reports about Mosul University. The campus was taken rather quickly. That was in part because there were no civilians there so more air strikes could be called in. It was a big loss for the Islamic State as it used the school as a command and control center. It also produced weapons there, and even a chemical lab was discovered. 

Al Sumaria reported that IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demoted all the commanders in eastern Mosul for their losses. The source went on to say that they were placed on the frontlines as further punishment.

The humanitarian situation in east Mosul continues to be an issue. The U.N. reported that there are water and food shortages. The United Nations and a few other aid groups are providing packages to residents, but that’s not on a regular basis. Preemptive Love Coalition one of the few organizations working within Mosul challenged others to start operating inside the city. Most of the NGOs are in Kurdistan in part because it is safe, and second because the Iraqi government told them not to set up in Mosul. They need to mobilize so that they can service as many people as possible.

Reuters was the latest to report on the back and forth life for the people of Mosul. In some places people are starting to rebuild their lives. In Zuhur markets were open and kids were playing soccer. In other areas people were fleeing, and some were heading out of the city for Kurdistan. Once east Mosul is freed much of this internal displacement will hopefully come to an end. Of course then the assault on the western half will began, and a whole new movement of people will start.

Finally, the United Nations provided a glimpse into the casualties caused by the fighting. Since the Mosul campaign restarted at the end of December almost 3,000 injured were sent to hospitals in Irbil. 47% of those were civilians and 53% were members of the security forces. There is very little news coming out of Iraq about casualties, especially about the ISF. The U.N. is one of the few making any kinds of report on the losses.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Counter-Terrorism forces liberate Andalus neighborhood in Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/15/17

ARA News, “Western aid groups urges NGOs to deliver direct aid to people inside Mosul,” 1/15/17

Arraf, Jane, “Iraqi Troops Edge Deeper Into Mosul – With Caution,” NPR, 1/15/17

Buratha News, “Asadi: We expect the completion of our tasks on the left coast of Mosul in two days,” 1/15/17
- “Joint Operations: liberated 90 percent of left coast of Mosul and the city’s airport under fire,” 1/15/17
- “Mosul operations commander announces details of last 17 hours in fight in Mosul,” 1/15/17
- “Recent developments in the field in the operation to liberate Mosul until 14:40 pm Sunday, 15 01 2017,” 1/15/17

Coles, Isabel, “In parts of Mosul, a semblance of normality despite war,” Reuters, 1/15/17

Al Forat, “Ninewa We Are Coming: the killing of tens of terrorists and clearing several districts in Mosul,” 1/15/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “4000 refugees left Mosul in 24 hours: aid group,” Iraqi News, 1/15/17
- “Army combs Mosul University after driving out Islamic State,” Iraqi News, 1/15/17
- “Iraqi Forces retake northern, eastern Mosul districts from IS,” Iraqi News, 1/15/17
- “IS to vigilante killed in western Mosul civilians homes burned in east,” Iraqi News, 1/15/17
- “Islamic State chief demotes eastern Mosul commanders over combat failures,” Iraqi News, 1/15/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Mosul university: once ISIL’s weapons factory, now a liberated ruin,” The National, 1/15/17

New Sabah, “The combined forces control 905 of the left coast of the city of Mosul,” 1/15/17
- “Mousalaon activists are urging residents to support the security forces and reveal Daash,” 1/15/17

Rudaw, “Mosul University: the last straw that broke the ISIS back, major weapon factory lost,” 1/15/17

Shafaaq News, “Urgent..Iraq forces announce the full names of liberated areas from the grip of Daesh,” 1/15/17

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Humanitarian Bulletin, December 2016,” 1/15/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces make swift advance into IS stronghold in Mosul,” 1/15/17


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


Mosul Campaign Day 90, Jan 14, 2017


On the 90th day of the Mosul campaign all of southeast Mosul was declared freed and much of the northern section as well. Starting in the south, the Federal Police and 9th Division freed Yarmja. The Rapid Reaction forces reached the Tigris River and said it was aiming to attack the Mosul Airport. Other units were clearing areas they had taken in the section. In doing so the entire southeastern part of Mosul was under government control. Towards the center the Golden Division liberated Sadriya, Nassir and Faisaliya. The unit also seized several government buildings including the mayor and the provincial council’s offices. In the north the division took all of the Mosul University. Above that the army was going through Hadbaa, Mudraa and Kafat looking for IEDs and booby traps. Only about 25% of Mosul in the northeast along the Tigris River and in the center remains under Islamic State control after these recent advances.

In the new areas being entered there has been a shift in the fighting. First, there are fewer car bombs. There used to be double digits per day, but now that is down to around 1-4. There are also not as many civilian casualties because not many people live in areas such as the government complex and the Mosul University.

The Washington Post noted how reinforcements, more supplies and an increase in U.S. led Coalition advisers has facilitated the recent victories. The Golden Division, which has been in the lead inside Mosul received up to 300 new replacements. It also got 70 additional Humvees, and 40 U.S. Coalition advisers in and around Mosul. The first two were very important to keep the unit going. There have been various figures presented for the Golden Division’s casualties. An Iraqi general said it had suffered 20-26% losses, an American officer told Politico that it was as high as 50%, while a former American adviser to the Golden Division had heard the figure was 20-35%. There’s no way to say which was right, as the government does not report its losses. Whatever the true number was replacement troops and equipment were crucial to keep the force going in the tough fighting within the city. The forward deployment of Coalition forces also helped with air and artillery strikes, and providing intelligence and advice.

Reuters had a piece on how IS was fighting inside the city. It talked with people in Muharibeen, which is now under government control, about how the militants conducted themselves. IS hung curtains across streets to try to obscure its movements from the ISF. It parked car bombs on side streets waiting for opportunities to deploy them, forced people out of their homes at gunpoint to use them as fire positions, and then quickly moved on to others. Finally there was a division of labor between fighters who planted explosives, snipers, and guides. The guides would tell fighters where to take up positions, where to place car bombs, etc. The IS members were also from different places. Locals claimed the snipers were usually foreign fighters form Russia, Chechnya and Afghanistan, while the rest were Iraqis mostly from Mosul and Tal Afar.

Another day and there was another story on the divisions within the Islamic State. 10 IS fighters were allegedly killed and wounded in a clash. As insurgents were fleeing east Mosul for the west crossing the Tigris, other members called them cowards. That led to an argument and armed clashes that resulted in the casualties.

The Director General of the Joint Crisis Coordination Center in Kurdistan warned that the humanitarian situation was growing worse for those displaced from the fighting. He said that around 3,000 people were fleeing Mosul per day. 70% of those make their way to camps in Kurdistan. He complained that Baghdad and international donors were not contributing enough to aid this increasing wave of people. This was predicted before the Mosul campaign began, and was why the government urged the people of Ninewa to stay in their homes. The authorities and aid groups simply lacked the resources to take care of them. Only one tenth of the one million internal refugees that were feared have materialized, but they even that amount is turning into a handful.

Rudaw went to a screening court at a displaced camp in Khazir. While most have focused upon the males that are taken away as suspected IS sympathizers during this process Rudaw wrote about the documents people are missing, which are crucial for receiving aid. People need their government IDs to receive tents, food rations, and other forms of assistance. Many coming out of Mosul have either left those papers behind, were lost while they were under IS rule, or were taken by Kurdish security when they escaped. The situation of the displaced is already hard enough. Without their papers it will be all that more difficult.

Finally, the Ninewa Plains were liberated during the Mosul operation, which is one of the historical homelands of Iraq’s Christians. Many of their towns like Qaraqosh have been destroyed however, and few are talking about returning. Instead many interviewed by the press have talked about immigrating to other countries, especially ones in Europe, a process that has been going on for years now due to the violence aimed at them. As one Christian woman said, the Islamic State “destroyed our dreams and our memories” and there was little left for them in Iraq now. On the other hand, there are some that want to create their own province or region. How successful that will be with more and more of the community leaving the country is yet to be seen.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Security forces liberate government buildings, 3 districts in Mosul, Iraqi News, 1/14/17
- “Security forces storm into Mosul University and liberate it completely,” Iraqi News, 1/14/17
- “Ten IS members killed, wounded in internal clash in Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/14/17

Al Alam, “VIDEO: Iraqi Forces Reaches Bank of Tigris River, Aim for Mosul Airport,” 1/14/17

BBC, "Mosul battle: Iraq forces 'retake' university from IS," 1/14/17

Chick, Kristen, “Iraqi Christians: Will they go home?” Christian Science Monitor, 1/14/17

George, Susannah, “Iraq makes swift territorial gains against IS in Mosul,” Associated Press, 1/14/17

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi forces ‘retake Mosul University’ from ISIL,” 1/14/17

Kalin, Stephen, “On Mosul frontlines, Islamic State’s local fighters direct the battle,” Reuters, 1/14/17

MacDiarmid, Campbell, “The Battle to Retake Mosul Is Stalemated,” Foreign Policy, 12/22/16

Morris, Loveday and Salim, Mustafa, “After a slow and bloody fight against ISIS, Iraqi forces pick up the pace in Mosul,” Washington Post, 1/14/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Inside Mosul: Taking selfies and comforting civilians all in a day’s work for Iraqi soldiers,” The National, 1/14/17

Neurink, Judit, “Court set up near Mosul to confer Iraqi IDs on refugees with ISIS-issued documents,” Rudaw, 1/14/17

New Sabah, “Liberated a wide area of Mosul neighborhoods and Veterinary Medical College,” 1/14/17

NINA, “Daesh Burns All Government Departments In The Left Side In Mosul,” 1/13/17

Perry, Mark, “How Iraq’s Army Could Defeat ISIS in Mosul-But Lose Control of the Country,” Politico, 12/15/16

Rudaw, “Iraqi army kills ISIS leader form Netherlands in Mosul,” 1/14/17
- “Mosul University liberated along with entire southeastern parts of the city, security officials say,” 1/14/17
- “Mosul’s fleeing residents double with 3000 on daily basis, Kurdish official,” 1/14/17

Shafaaq News, “War media cell reveals the outcome of the day’s battles in Mosul,” 1/14/17

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces make gains in recapture push in Mosul," 1/14/17


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 89, Jan 13, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) were moving forward on all three fronts in east Mosul on January 13. In the north, the army’s 15th and 16th Divisions freed Hadbaa and Mudraa. In the center, the Golden Division has split up into two branches. One has moved north and linked up with the army. It freed Kafat 1 and attacked Kafat 2 and the Mosul University. The Technical Institute, Technical College, and dormitories were all taken. To the south the Golden Division freed Nassir and Rafaq, and seized the entrances to the Hurriya and Iron bridges. The ISF has now reached the three southernmost bridges across the Tigris River. In response, the Islamic State set off explosives on all five spans to impede the ISF from using them. Sadriya, Nassir, and Faisaliya were entered, and the Prophet Younis site was assaulted. The Federal Police and 9th Division were clearing areas that had just been taken the last few days, namely Sumer, Dumiz, Sahiron, and Salam in the south. Originally, the Golden Division entered east Mosul on its own due to orders from Prime Minister Haidar Abadi who was eager to seize the city by the end of 2016. This was despite the fact that the northern and southern fronts had not even reached the city to spread the Islamic State’s defenses out. Eventually elements of the 9th Division entered the eastern section as well, but there was little coordination with the Golden Division. That along with the sturdy defenses of the insurgents led to slow progress with some setbacks. The whole operation eventually came to a halt in December to reload and reorganize, and come up with a new plan. When the campaign was restarted major forces from the army and police were shifted to east Mosul to push forward on three lines of advance. That was supported by more U.S. Coalition support with planes, helicopters, artillery, and intelligence. The Americans also pushed greater cooperation between the different Iraqi forces. Since then there has been a series of victories, and a collapse of IS’s defenses.  
(Institute for the Study of War)

Each day there are more stories of IS forces in east Mosul falling into disarray. New Sabah received reports that the militants were robbing people and looting homes as they fled to the western half of the city. They were also burning government offices in a scorched earth campaign they have been carrying out since October. A security source also said that the group’s discipline was breaking down, as some were not following orders to stop civilians from escaping to government held lines. If this carries over to western Mosul it might fall much quicker than the eastern section.

More people continued to flee the Mosul area. The International Organization for Migration counted 144,588 people registered up to January 12. From January 5 to January 12 12,354 people left. A total of 161,172 people signed up with the government and aid agencies, but 16,560 of those have gone back to their homes. Gogjali an eastern suburb of Mosul is the hub for people moving back and forth into Mosul. Some are heading north to camps in Kurdistan while others are staying in the area. Most said they were trying to escape IS shelling. The number of people leaving has more than doubled since the campaign has re-started at the end of last year.  

Gogjali is also where life is beginning to return to the Mosul area. People are opening stalls, shops and markets there. This is despite the fact that there is no power and other services. Trucks bring in supplies to the town, and people from east Mosul travel their to buy goods. There are at least several thousand people displaced within the city. Where fighting is going on or IS rocket and mortar fire is the most intense they leave, but then others are going back to parts that are more secure. None of these are included in the displaced figures because they are not registered.
(U.N.)
  
Finally, the United Nations released a study of the oil fires in Qayara. These were set afire back in October when IS fled the area. They are spitting out huge toxic clouds that have had a huge environmental impact on the area. While several wells have been put out there are still 29 others still burning.
(Getty)

SOURCES

Al Alam, "VIDEO: Iraqi Special Forces Continue Advancing in Eastern Mosul," 1/13/17

Associated Press, “In eastern Mosul, small signs of progress amid the fighting,” 1/12/17
- “UN Warns Of Oil Spill South Of Iraqi City Of Mosul,” 1/13/17

BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi forces clash with IS at university,” 1/13/17

Coles, Isabel and Davison, John, "Iraqi forces make rapid gains against Islamic State in Mosul," Reuters, 1/13/17

Al Forat, "Jihad Brigades announced four martyrs west of Mosul," 1/13/17
- "Urgent anti-terrorism forces arrive in Prophet Younis area in Mosul," 1/13/17

George, Susannah and Mohammed, Khalid, “Iraqi forces enter Mosul University in battling IS for city,” Associated Press, 1/13/17

International Organization for Migration, “Mosul emergency has now displaced over 144,500 Iraqis: IOM,” 1/13/17

Al Maalomah, “Federal police cleansed three neighborhoods southeast of Mosul,” 1/13/17
- "Freed Hadbaa and Madraa in the left coast of the city of Mosul," 1/13/17

Al Mada, "Counter Terrorism freed neighborhood in Mosul's left coast," 1/13/17
- "The killing 17 Daesh members in repelling in attack southeast Mosul," 1/13/17

Murdock, Heather, “Mosul Civilians Sift Through Rubble as Coalition Takes Fiercely Held Neighborhoods,” Voice of America, 1/12/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Mosul Comes Back to Life, Even as the Deadly Battle Goes On,” Daily Beast, 1/12/17

New Sabah, “Daesh robs money from fleeing regions of Mosul and burning government offices,” 1/13/17

Rudaw, “Casualties among Iraqi armed forces sustainable, Iraqi top commander,” 1/13/17
- “LIVE UPDATES: Iraqi forces gaining significant ground in Mosul,” 1/13/17

Shafaaq News, “What was witnessed on the Mosul front during the past 17 hours,” 1/13/17

Al Sumaria, “War media cell: Daesh blows up bridges to hinder our progress toward the right side of Mosul,” 1/13/17

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces advance in IS stronghold, recapture Mosul University," 1/13/17



Friday, January 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 88, Jan 12, 2017


Three areas in east Mosul were liberated, while the Iraqi forces (ISF) were battling over others. Sumer in the south was taken for the third time in January by the Rapid Reaction force. In the north, the Golden and 16th Division liberated Bab Shamiss and Ain al-Damalaga. Part of Tamim was also cleared. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction forces were fighting to take the rest of southeast Mosul. A spokesman for the Federal Police told the press that the east bank of the Tigris would soon be under control.

In the west the sixth stage of operations by the Hashd and police got underway. Three towns were taken south of Tal Abta. The Hashd and ISF are stuck going through these small villages because the army has made no effort to free Tal Afar, which the Hashd surrounded weeks ago. That leaves it to traverse through the western region.

Reports of the collapse of the Islamic State continued. Face Iraq said that IS fighters were fleeing east Mosul for the west scurrying across the Tigris River. The Iraqi air forces has been hitting the boats ferrying them across the waterway. Iraq Oil Report had another story that the differences between the Iraqi and foreign fighters was growing. Lastly, Al Maalomah reported that foreign and Iraqi members have been fighting each other. As pressure has increased upon the group these cracks have begun to grow bigger and bigger. Whether that will carry over to the battle for western Mosul is a major question.

Despite those problems IS is still attacking and causing casualties. During the day 42 people were killed and 5 wounded by shelling, two suicide bombers, and three car bombs.

A Coalition air strike was blamed for losses in west Mosul as well. Airwars that monitors civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria by the Coalition had 21 dead and 14 wounded from such a incident. U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande pointed out that 47% of all the casualties in the Mosul campaign have been civilians. Most of those have been due to IS shelling and gunfire and Coalition air strike. The Iraqi forces have also picked up their air strikes and artillery fire on east Mosul likely adding to those numbers.

The number of people registered as displaced continued to rise at a high pace. From January 6 to January 9 that figure went from 133,302 to 139,776, a 6,474 increase. Since the Mosul operation re-started at the end of 2016 people signing up with aid groups and the government has nearly doubled from around 3,000 per week to 6,000. That does not include the thousands of people moving back and forth within Mosul. Many people have heard of the tough conditions in displaced camps, the screening they have to go through which might mean male family members being detained and held incommunicado, along with the fact that they can’t leave the camps once they entered, and have decided to take their chances within the city.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Hashd militia liberates 3 villages near Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/12/17
- "IS shells residential district near Mosul, 23 civilian casualties," Iraqi News, 1/12/17
- “Security forces liberate Salam Distirct in Mosul,” Iraqi News, 1/12/17

Airwars, "January 12th, 2017: New Mosul neighbourhood, Mosul, Nineveh province, Iraq"

Buratha News, “Federal Police liberating the southern edge of the left coast of Mosul,” 1/12/17
- “War Media Cell: three car bombs blown up killing 15 terrorists and brought down drone in Mosul,” 1/12/17

Davison, John and Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi forces link up north Mosul, make gains in southeast,” Reuers, 1/12/17

Face Iraq, “Military sources: Daesh organization fled their positions in the left coast of Mosul,” 1/12/17
- "Security forces liberated Mithaq, Sumer, Jaffa and stormed Dumiz neighborhood on the left coast of Mosul," 1/3/17

International Organization for Migration, “Iraq: Displacement Tracking Matrix, Emergency Tracking – Fact Sheet #11 – Mosul Operations from 17 October to 12 January,” 1/12/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul, Dec. 10, 2016," 12/10/16
- "Inside Mosul: Jan. 12, 2017," 1/12/17

Kalin, Stephen, “Bombed Mosul bridge still lifeline for long-suffering civilians,” Reuters, 1/11/17

Al Maalomah, “Large splits between members of foreign and Arab Dash in central Mosul,” 1/12/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "3 refugees killed in Islamic State bombing in Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/12/17
- "Senior Islamic State member, five suiciders killed in central Mosul airstrike," Iraqi News, 1/12/17
- "Update: Iraqi troops liberate 28 districts in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 12/9/16

NINA, "Security forces impose full control over Wahda and Sumer southeast Mosul," 1/5/17

Sobir, Shoguna, “70-80% of Eastern Part of Mosul Liberated: US Army Official,” Bas News, 1/12/17

Al Sumaria, "War Media Cell: three car bombs blown up killing 15 terrorists and brought down drone in Mosul," 1/12/17

UN News Centre, “Humanitarian crisis in Mosul could outlive Iraqi military operations, senior UN official warns,” 1/11/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces gain ground as troops push into IS stronghold in Mosul,” 1/12/17