Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Ten, Oct 26, 2016

The Iraqi and Peshmerga forces were back at work on the tenth day of the Mosul operation. Several more towns were freed, but this was more consolidation of the front before the second phase of the campaign was launched. The Hashd are also going to enter the fray soon. In Mosul there were more mass executions by the Islamic State, and over 10,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, although several thousand had also been able to return.

The joint forces were gaining more ground on October 26. The Golden Division east of Mosul took the town of Khaza, which it claimed it had freed two days before. Army units moving from the south and east liberated five towns plus a gas plant in Tal Kief. Finally, the Peshmerga took five villages east of Mosul, but one of those was said to have been gone through three days before. The joint forces have a bad habit of claiming towns are freed before they are even reached or while fighting is still going on within them. These moves were the last in the first phase of the Mosul operation, and meant to stabilize the front. The next step will include the first action on the western front with the Hashd and Federal Police taking on Tal Afar. Asaib Ahl Al-Haq said they would be in the lead for that operation.

In Mosul there are conflicting stories about Islamic State fighters. Since the start of the campaign there have been plenty of news reports that Islamic State members were leaving the city. Then there have been others that they are sending in reinforcements. Which of these is true will not be determined until the city is assaulted.

IS was also accused of more executions. On October 25 there were stories that up to 208 people were killed by the group. On October 26, there was a report that 332 had died in Hamam Al-Alil and another town. Two main explanations have been given for why IS is executing so many people. One was that they were carrying out a type of scorched earth policy of killing civilians from towns they had to give up to the government. The other was that they had taken several hundred people as human shields to protect their retreat. After their purpose was served IS then got rid of them by shooting them. It is impossible to confirm these accounts right now.

Different organizations are still announcing different figures for the number of displaced from the Mosul campaign. The Iraqi Red Crescent took in 2,000 people in Al-Khazer camp north of the city. Most of them came from villages east of Mosul. The United Nations gave the largest overall number so far of 10,500. Most of those are not in camps but being hosted by other people. It also noted that there is a huge ebb and flow of civilians around Mosul with over 3,000 having gone back to their homes almost immediately after they were freed by the joint forces. This was mostly to the south of Mosul. Finally, the UNHCR was flying in 7,000 tents from Dubai and Amman to house displaced. On October 24 an Iraqi parliamentarian on the displacement committee complained that many internal refugees were living out in the elements because the government had stolen the money meant to aid them due to corruption.


Al Aalem, "War Media: freed Tilkaif Gas Plant," 10/26/16

Bas News, "Iraqi Security Forces Advancing Towards Central Mosul," 10/24/16
- “New IDPs from Mosul at Risk: Iraqi MP,” 10/24/16
- "Peshmerga Liberates Another Christian Village Near Mosul," 10/26/16

Buratha News, "Iraqi army frees village south of Mosul," 10/26/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 26, 2016," 10/26/16

Al-Ghazi, Muhannad, “Anti-IS troops are gaining ground on multiple fronts in Iraq,” Al Monitor, 10/25/16

Iraq Red Crescent Society, “2,000 displaced people flee from villages eastern of Mosul to Al-khazer camp,” 10/26/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 26, 2016,” 10/26/16

Iraqi News, "Peshmerga forces recapture Dirk village near Bashiqa," 10/26/16

Kharmees, Ahmed, "Mosul Operation: First Stage Ended," Bas News, 10/26/16

Al Masalah, "Daesh executed 332 civilians in Hamam al-Alil and village of Aeryj in Mosul," 10/26/16

NINA, "Peshmerga Clash with Daesh in Ba'shiqah, liberate villages 2 Villages north of Mosul," 10/23/16

NRT TV, "Iraqi Troops Continue Clearing Villages Around Mosul," 10/26/16

Rudaw, “UPDATES: Mosul offensive day 10,” 10/26/16

Shafaq News, "Source: Daesh executed 20 policemen and hold about 70 other soldiers, Hama Al-Alil south of Mosul," 10/26/16

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq: Mosul Humanitarian Response Situation Report #3 (23-25 October 2016),” 10/26/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces advance closer to new positions outside IS-held Mosul," 10/26/16

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Nine, Oct 25, 2016

The ninth day of the Mosul operation was marked by a few new towns taken by the joint Iraqi forces, but really the main story was about the mass executions by the Islamic State.

First, there was little movement by the joint forces. The Peshmerga freed three towns including Batnaya in the northeast, which they claimed to have cleared five days ago. The Kurds announced that they were almost done with their role in the campaign, so less news can be expected on their fronts. The Golden Division liberated one village in the east. The Federal police also freed up to 200 families that had been snatched by the Islamic State from three towns south of Mosul. They were likely used as human shields.

Most of the news on October 25 was about the Islamic State. Reports had them executing 15 in Safina, 60 in Hamam al-Alil, and 78 in Mosul. The United Nations has also received further stories of other mass killings. Those included 6 killed in Rufaila, 50 former police bodies being found, and another 70 dead civilians in Tal Nasr that occurred over the last week. IS was said to be killing people as they were forced out of areas, and also executing others after they had been used as human shields to protect insurgents as they fled in the face of the joint forces. Similar stories can be expected in the future.

In Mosul IS continues to face difficulties. First, it has shifted most of its families and fighters to the right bank of the city, and planted explosives on all the bridges connecting that side with the other side of the city. The press has said that IS only has 2,000-5,000 fighters to protect this metropolis limiting their defensive options. It looks like IS intends to put up a tough fight in the surrounding towns, but when Mosul itself is reached it will carry out delaying attacks and then fall back to the right bank to put up its last stand, knocking out the bridges to slow the Iraqi forces.

Finally, Iraq’s Displacement Ministry noted that 3,802 had been displaced in the last few days. Camps have been built in the area with a capacity for 300,000 people. The question is if these are in the right locations. For example, many were built in the north and east, but lots of people have gone west where there is no fighting with some even heading into Syria. A parliamentarian from the displacement committee also criticized the government saying that it was not adequately prepared because of corruption stealing money meant for supplies.


Bas News, “New IDPs from Mosul at Risk: Iraqi MP,” 10/24/16
- "Peshmerga Liberates a Christian Village in Northern Mosul," 10/20/16
- “Thousands of People Displaced from Liberated Areas in Mosul,” 10/25/16

BBC, “Mosul battle: UN receives reports of IS atrocities,” 10/25/16

Face Iraq, "Sources: Daesh terrorists executed 55 young men from the Wadi al-Mansur," 10/25/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 25, 2016,” 10/25/16

Lynch, Hannah, “Inside Mosul: Brutal tactics to control civilians as ISIS prepares to fight for city,” Rudaw, 10/25/16

Al Maalomah, "Foiled Daesh attack south of Mosul," 10/25/16
- "Learned the importance of Kokjla region after being storemd by counterterrorism," 10/25/16

NINA, “Security Forces Free 200 Families In Qayyarah Taken By Daesh As Human Shields,” 10/24/16

NRT TV, "Peshmerga Forces take Village Northeast Of Mosul," 10/25/16

Rudaw, "Inside Mosul: Brutal tactics to control civilians as ISIS prepares to fight for city," 10/25/16
- "UPDATES: Mosul offensive, Day 9," 10/25/16

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Eight, Oct 24, 2016

The Iraqi and Kurdish forces were pushing in on Mosul from the east and south on the eighth day of the Mosul operation. Turkey once again inflamed Iraqi sentiment, while within Mosul itself IS continued to deal with its imminent demise.

New casualty reports came out for October 23. 19 Peshmerga were killed and 78 wounded, along with 6 displaced dying and 10 being wounded by an IED. The true figures are much higher as Baghdad and Irbil are not releasing any numbers. Only the occasional reporter at the front provides a glimpse into losses.

The Iraqi and Kurdish forces were pushing forward once again. In the east, the Golden Division launched a pincer attack from Bartella. The unit six freed towns. From the south, the Federal Police and Army took eight villages, and the army took another in the southeast. The Peshmerga were laying siege to Bashiqa in the northeast. They were digging trenches around it, and took one town as well. On other fronts the Kurds said they reached the limit of their advance and were digging in. Before the campaign Irbil and Baghdad came to an agreement about their respective roles. The Kurds agreed to take the perimeter of Mosul to the north and east, and not enter the city itself. At the same time they are claiming all of the territory that they take as part of the disputed territories, which the Iraqi government does not agree with. That issue will have to be resolved after the battle for Mosul is over.

For the second time the Islamic State struck at the Sinjar district in western Ninewa. IS has been attacking at various locations including Kirkuk City and Rutba in western Anbar in an attempt to draw forces away from Mosul. The Sinjar thrusts have been quite small, while the other two were quite spectacular examples of well planned and elaborate commando raids into urban areas. They have had no impact on Mosul however.

In the Mosul district IS showed signs that its time was running out. There was another report that IS executed 40 families south of Mosul as it was retreating. The group continued to destroy sections of the city itself. It apparently burned some mosques, schools, and service departments. At Mosul Hospital it kicked out dozens of patients to make way for its own wounded. There were also stories of food and fuel shortages.

Turkey appeared set on angering Baghdad. The day before Turkish forces fired artillery into the Bashiqa district claiming it was to support the Peshmerga. The Kurds denied that they asked for any assistance. The next day, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkish planes were taking part in the Mosul operation. President Recept Tayyip Erdogan has made his goal clear. In a TV interview he stated, “But there is a major question, who will then control the city [Mosul]? Of course, Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmen and Sunni Kurds.” He was referring to Ankara’s allies in Ninewa such as the Nujafi’s and Massoud Barzani. Through these actors Erdogan hopes to establish hegemony over not only Mosul but the entire province of Ninewa. His plans are not going well however, and only garnering the enduring enmity of Baghdad.

Reported Casualties In Mosul Operation Oct 17-24, 2016
Dead: 1 Reporter, 1 U.S. Sailor, 1 Hashd, 2 Kurdish Counter Terrorism Operatives, 3 Doctors, 4 Soldiers, 6 Displaced, 60 Peshmerga
Wounded: 4 Reporters, 10 Displaced, 30 Soldiers, 253 Peshmerga
(The higher figures for Peshmerga vs Soldiers is due to more Western reporters being embedded with the Kurds than the ISF)

Executed by Islamic State Oct 17-24, 2016

Previous Reports


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Krauss, Joseph, "Iraqis Press Toward Mosul, Face Questions About Airstrike," Associated Press, 10/24/16

Bas News, “Iraqi Security Forces Advancing Towards Central Mosul,” 10/24/16
- "IS Executes 40 Families in South of Mosul," 10/24/16
- "Peshmerga Foils an IS Attack in Batnaya Near Mosul," 10/24/16

Buratha News, "Freed Christian Karmales east of Mosul," 10/24/16

Dehghanpisheh, Babak and Georgy, Michael, "Ferocity of Kirkuk attack points to tough fight for Mosul," Reuters, 10/24/16

Dettmer, Jamie, “US Scrambles to Contain Flaring Turkey-Iraq Tensions,” Voice of America, 10/24/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 24, 2016," 10/24/16
- “Kurdish forces reject alleged request help from Turkey in Mosul operation,” 10/24/16

Face Iraq, "Security forces announced they foiled a suicide attack on a Mosul police station," 10/24/16

Hennessy-Fiske, Molly, "Even the badly wounded are itching to return to the battle for Mosul: 'I'm fighting for my land,'" Los Angeles Times, 10/24/16

Iraqi News, "Iraqi forces liberate 2 villages south of Mosul," 10/24/16
- "Peshmerga forces kill 15 ISIS militants and destroy 7 car bombs in Sinjar," 10/24/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 23, 2016,” 10/23/16
- "Inside Mosul: Oct. 24, 2016," 10/24/16

Al Maalomah, “Daesh burn mosques and schools in Mosul and directed sectarian slogans on walls,” 10/24/16
- "Security forces surround victory neighboring in Rutba preparing to storm it," 10/24/16

Al Mada, "Freed five villages in the vicinity of Bartila," 10/24/16
- "Freed four villages in the area south of Mosul," 10/24/16

NINA, "6 Civilians Killed, 10 Injured South Of Mosul," 10/23/16

Rudaw, “Peshmerga reach point beyond which they will not advance in Mosul offensive,” 10/24/16
- "UPDATES: Mosul offensive, Day 8," 10/24/16

Shafaq News, "A senior military commander survived a suicide bombing east of Mosul," 10/24/16
- "Urgent..Iraqi forces repel a Daesh attack south of Mosul," 10/24/16

Sowell, Kirk, “The Regional and Domestic Political Context of the Mosul Offensive,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10/18/16

Alsumaria, “Daesh expels more than 40 patients including the elderly from Mosul Hospital,” 10/24/16

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Seven, Oct 23, 2016

Day seven of the Mosul operation was dominated by the Kurdish push from the north towards Bashiqa. Turkey also finally got involved over the objections of the Iraqi government. The Qayara air base south of Mosul opened, and the Islamic State continued with its destruction of parts of Mosul.

On October 22, the Iraqi forces freed a total of 15 towns. Those were to the south and east of Mosul led by the 9th, 15th and 16th Army Divisions and the Federal Police.

On October 23 the Peshmerga and Federal Police were both active. First, the Kurds surrounded the town of Bashiqa and several others in the district, which is to the northeast of Mosul. This operation was started on October 20, but stalled due to determined counter attacks by the Islamic State. On the 23rd the Kurds renewed their effort and reached their goal. There were some reports that Bashiqa had actually been taken, but the last report of the day said that it was only encircled. The Peshmerga also seized control of the Bashiqa-Mosul road and three towns. In the south, the Federal Police liberated three towns. Three Kurdish doctors were killed during the week along with two soldiers, and two others wounded on the 23rd.

Turkey joined in the Mosul operation for the first time. It fired artillery into the Bashiqa district. The Turks claimed they were supporting the Kurdish effort, but that was disputed. What was not in argument was that this as against the direct consent of the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has continuously rejected Ankara playing any role in Mosul, and the situation only escalated after President Erdogan insulted the Iraqi premier. The artillery fire may be just a way to anger Baghdad even more.

The Qayara air base south of Mosul was finally repaired and became operational. The base was seized several weeks ago, and the United States has been working on it ever since. As soon as the work finished planes began landing there delivering supplies for the Iraqi forces. Its role as a logistics hub, so close to the front will be crucial in keeping the pace of the campaign going.

Within Mosul the Islamic State continued to show signs of victory and defeat. First, the group claimed that its attack upon Kirkuk city was a great victory. At the same time it continued to pull its families and members out of the eastern side of the city into the west. Finally, it continued to blow up notable landmarks. On the 22nd it destroyed the Mosul train station. It appears that the group knows that its time is ending in the city, but it wants to take parts of it down with it, while claiming that it will ultimately win despite this setback.

Previous Reports


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Krauss, Joseph, "Iraqi Forces Advance Near Mosul as IS Attacks Western Town," Associated Press, 10/23/16

ARA News, "Peshmerga forces break through ISIS defense lines, surround Bashiqa town," 10/23/16

Bas News, "Peshmerga liberates 3 Villages in Northern Mosul," 10/23/16

BBC, “Mosul offensive: Turkish and Kurdish forces launch attacks on IS,” 10/23/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 23, 2016," 10/23/16
-"Iraqi Kurds say they retake Christian town of Bashiqa near Mosul," 10/23/16

Al Forat, "Freed new villages and destroyed two Daesh tunnels south of Mosul," 10/23/16
- "Freed village of Tal Skul south of Mosul and raised the Iraqi flag above it," 10/23/16

Iraqi News, "Anti-Terrorism forces repulse ISIS attack near Mosul," 10/23/16

Al Maalomah, "After hours of freeing Qaraqosh foiled four suicide bomb attacks," 10/23/16

NINA, “Daesh Blows Up Mosul Train Station,” 10/22/16

Osgood, Patrick, “Peshmerga complete northern offensive,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/24/16

Rudaw, "MOSUL OFFENSIVE DAY 7: Live Updates," 10/23/16

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was interviewed by Paul Iddon for “Pehsmerga confident of success in Mosul battle despite shortages” and "The scale of Mosul operation presents challenges unlike previous battles with ISIS" both of which were published by Rudaw, and by Malik Ayub Sumbal for "Mosul is the main ISIS cadre" for Eurasia Diary. 

Mosul Campaign Day Six, Oct 22, 2016

The Iraqi joint forces were much more active during the sixth day of the Mosul operation. Several more towns were freed, some of which were declared liberated before however. Iraq’s prime minister rejected Turkey’s participation in the campaign once again. On the insurgents’ side the Islamic State was accused of mass executions and forced displacement, and may be destroying parts of Mosul in anticipation of losing it.

More information was released by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on its work on October 21. Eight towns were reported freed that day to the south and east of Mosul.

The next day another 14 towns were liberated and another one attacked by the ISF. Two of those, Qaraqosh and Bartella were said to have been cleared earlier, but that appeared to be government propaganda. There were actually freed on October 22. Several neighborhoods of Tal Kief were entered as well by the Iraqi army.

The Kurds did not report any gains in their thrusts from the north and east during the day but several Peshmerga were quoted in an article in The National saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had made a deal with Baghdad to keep all the territory that it takes during the Mosul campaign. This will be a hotly debated issue after Mosul is liberated as Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has mentioned before that he does not agree with Kurdistan holding onto these areas. Facts on the ground have largely determined who controls the disputed areas since 2003, and the Kurds have nearly all of the areas they claim. This issue and others will have to be dealt with after the battle is finished. Some argued that there should have been some kind of grand deal beforehand, but that could have easily been broken by military action. More importantly crafting such an agreement might have put off the Mosul campaign for weeks if not months.

Only 2 casualties were reported during the day. A reporter was killed by an IS sniper and a Hashd group claimed that one of its fighters died as well. The low figure was due to official censorship, which is again leading to the suppression of losses. Those are likely heavy as IS has stiffened its defenses in the last few days. Western reporters for example have noted several car bombs that have hit the joint forces, but no figures were given on the dead and wounded. The actual cost of the fight against the Islamic State has been another casualty of the war.

The U.S. led Coalition continued to support the Iraqi join forces. Americans repaired part of the Qayara air base south of Mosul. That could lead to Iraqi planes and helicopters being based there for quick strikes on IS positions. More Coalition members were also reported as being embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as advisers and to call in air strikes. The U.S. and British forces have been mentioned and seen before by reporters. More than 100 U.S. personnel are said to be with the joint forces on the front lines. Now Australian and New Zealand Special Forces have been added to that list, although the latter officially denied it.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Iraq. He met with Premier Abadi and passed along Turkey’s offer to help with the Mosul operation. Abadi turned it down. Ankara has repeatedly said that it would play a role in the campaign whether Baghdad liked it or not garnering huge anger, especially amongst the Shiite ruling parties and Hashd groups. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inflamed the situation even more right on the eve of the battle by insulting Iraq’s leader saying he was not on the same level. Washington has been trying to mediate between the two countries, but Ankara is attempting to impose its hegemony over Mosul and Ninewa in general, and Baghdad is not having it. Erdogan’s comments ensured that the Iraqi government would never accept any offer from him.

In IS controlled areas it is still attempting to hold onto power. It released a video of the hanging of two Peshmerga off of a bridge in Mosul. It also blew up a prominent hotel and the municipalities building. This is more evidence that IS may be trying to destroy sections of the city before it is forced out. In one part of the city IS used mosque loudspeakers to claim that it had seized most of Kirkuk city and defeated the Iraqi forces in Bartella, both of which were false. In that same section is was forcing shops to re-open. Many businesses have closed up in anticipation of the assault. There were reports that the group had pushed around 200 people from several villages south of Mosul into the city itself probably for use as human shields. It also allegedly slaughtered several hundred people as it fled villages in the face of advances by the Iraqi forces. In the south it also set fire to a sulfur plant that led to toxic clouds floating to populated areas killing two and sickening up to 1,000.

Previous Reports


AIN, “International Coalition welcomes the opening Qayyarah Air Base,” 10/22/16

Bas News, "Assyrian Town Bartella Fully Liberated from IS," 10/22/16
- "IS Explodes Biggest Hotel in Mosul," 10/22/16

BBC, "Mosul battle: Iraqi army 'retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh," 10/18/16

Bora, Birce, “Analysis: What is Turkey trying to achieve in Iraq?” Al Jazeera, 10/14/16

Buratha News, "Martyrdom engineering official from Ashura Brigades," 10/22/16

Chulov, Martin, “Kurdish forces vow no retreat until Nineveh plains are retaken from Isis,” Guardian, 10/20/16

Dehghanpisheh, Babak and Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi army drives Islamic State from Christian region near Mosul,” Reuters, 10/22/16

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Oct. 22, 2016," 10/22/16

Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, "Iraq's U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops join attack on Mosul," Washington Post, 10/20/16

Al Maalomah, "Security forces free Taiwibh a village in southern Mosul," 10/22/16
- “Throwing millions of leaflets on the cities of Nineveh, Hawija, and Qaim,” 10/22/16

Al Mada, "Federal Police freed five villages west of advance," 10/22/16

Neuhof, Florian, “Step by step, peshmerga turn the screw on ISIL,” The National, 10/21/16

New Sabah, "New Sabah keeps pace with the victories over Daesh on all axes of Nineveh," 10/22/16

NINA, "Eight new villages liberated in the southern and eastern axes of the city of Mosul," 10/21/16

Rudaw, “Mosul battle day 6: Iraqi forces advance on Qaraqosh,” 10/22/16

Shafaq News, "Urgent..suicide attacks targeting the progress of the Iraqi forces east of Mosul," 10/22/16

Sobir, Shoguna, "IS Clams Executing Two Peshmerga: Unconfirmed Report," Bas News

Wedeman, Ben, Dewan, Angela and McKirdy, Euan, "Mosul: Most intense day of fighting since offensive began," CNN, 10/20/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi cameraman killed in battles near Mosul," 10/22/16
- "Iraqi forces recapture town from IS as troops push on Mosul," 10/22/16

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Five, Oct 21, 2016

The fifth day of the Mosul offensive was a slow one.

A few more towns were freed. The Federal Police and Army pushing towards Mosul from the south and east claimed to have freed seven villages during the day. In one of those towns the Islamic State launched four car bombs, but they were destroyed. Overall, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) said they had gone through 53 towns so far since the start of the operation on October 17.

Inside Mosul it was reported that the militants destroyed several churches on October 20. The day before it blew up several government buildings and some of its own offices. That raises the fear that IS may destroy sections of the city before it is forced out. The United Nations also reported that IS took over 500 people from two neighboring towns and forced them into Mosul. The fear was that they would be used as human shields once the fighting breaks out within the city itself.

Since the start of the operation there have been differing figures given on how many people have been displaced as a result. On October 21 the United Nations said 3,900 people had left Mosul and Hamdaniya district. The day before, the International Organization for Migration released a higher number of 5,640. It’s apparent that the various humanitarian groups in the area are seeing and registering different amounts of people, and have not been able to come to a consensus yet on the total.

Previous Reports on the Mosul operation:


Al Forat "Freed Good Hill south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Nineveh operations freed the village of Doizzat south-east axis of the Tigris and raise dthe Iraqi flag over it," 10/21/16
- "Security forces stormed the village of suspicion south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Urgent freed the village of Conception from Daash south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Urgent Iraqi army frees two villages in the eastern axis of the Battle of Mosul," 10/21/16

Al Maalomah, "Freed two village and discovered a half ton of ammonium nitrate," 10/21/16

-"Media Cell: freed 53 villages and killed 473 terrorists since the start of the Mosul operation," 10/21/16

Matti, Emad and Schreck, Adam, “IS Attacks Iraq City of Kirkuk, Power Plant Amid Mosul Fight,” Associated Press, 10/21/16

NINA, “Breaking News … Daesh Demolish Churches In Mosul,” 10/20/16

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Four, Oct 20, 2016

The Mosul operation increased in intensity on the fourth day. The Kurds opened up a new front to the north of the city and the elite Golden Division carried out its first attack as well. Several villages were freed, while the Islamic State appeared to be putting up a much harder fight than they did initially.

First, there were some new reports of progress and violence from October 19. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) took 10 towns. Five large Islamic State counter attacks involving multiple car bombs were reported. There was also a story that rockets knocked out an Iraqi tank. In Mosul the Islamists destroyed the Ninewa Governorate building and the Nationality and Passport Directorate along with several of the group’s own offices. It also hanged three people. IS might be embarking on a scorched earth campaign in parts of Mosul to leave nothing behind after it is expelled.

On October 20 the Peshmerga re-started their operations on a new front to the north of Mosul. Peshmerga moved towards the town of Bashiqa. Members of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), an Iranian-Kurdish dissident group were seen taking part in the new offensive. The day before U.S. and English Special Forces were seen amongst the Peshmerga. Some called in air strikes to support the new attack. Nine towns were reported free during the day.

The Kurds thrust to the east was stopped, and the elite Golden Division took their place attacking Bartella. That town was declared freed, but fighting was still going on in certain regions. In the east and south of Mosul another seven towns were reported freed by the ISF.

The new thrusts by the combined forces led to some tough counter attacks by the Islamic State. Seven large ones were reported with over two dozen car bombs being used. 4 reporters were injured in two such actions. A U.S. soldier also died of his wounds from an IED. Another 24 Peshmerga were killed, 133 wounded, and two soldiers. As usual Baghdad and Irbil are not officially reporting their losses so the totals are probably much higher.

There was more news about the civilian toll of the Mosul operation. The United Nations said that around 1,900 people had fled Mosul since the start of the campaign and been registered. 900 had gone to Syria. The International Organization for Migration had a higher figure of 5,640 since October 17.

Finally, in France there was an international meeting of twenty countries looking for support for post-IS Mosul. Holland pledge $1.1 million in aid as a result.


Associated Press, “World diplomats seek post-battle plan for ISIS bastion Mosul,” 10/20/16

Bas News, "Four News Crews Injured While Covering Anti-IS Operations North of Mosul," 10/20/16
- "IS Executes 16 People in Southern Mosul," 10/19/16
- "IS Explodes Administrative Buildings in Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Peshmerga Liberates a Christian Village in Northern Mosul," 10/20/16

eKurd, "Kurdish forces launch second massive offensive against IS near Iraq's Mosul," 10/20/16

Iraqi News, "Iraqi forces liberate more areas in Mosul, besiege Mishraq Company," 10/20/16
- "Mosul offensive: Peshmerga forces recapture Imam Reda village and Khorsabad road," 10/20/16

Kalin, Stephen and Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Mosul offensive going faster than planned, Iraqi PM says,” Reuters, 10/21/16

Kesling, Ben and El-Ghobashy, Tamer, “Iraq Captures Key Town Near Mosul,” Wall Street Journal, 10/20/16

Al Mada, "Daesh executed three Peshmerga detainees central Mosul," 10/20/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, "Iraq's U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops join attack on Mosul," Washington Post, 10/20/16

Rudaw, “LIVE UPDATES MOSL BATTLE: Day 3,” 10/19/16
- "LIVE UPDATES MOSUL BATTLE: Day 4," 10/20/16

Wedeman, Ben, Dewan, Angela and McKirdy, Euan, "Mosul: Most intense day of fighting since offensive began," CNN, 10/20/16,

World Bulletin, “Kurds in fresh push against ISIL near Mosul,” 10/20/16

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Three, Oct 19, 2016

On the third day of the Mosul campaign there was a decided slowdown in the pace of events. That was mostly by design as the Peshmerga halted their operations, and some of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were to shift from the south to the east to take off from where the Kurds stopped. At the same time, IS was putting up a tougher defense in the south.

The last two days were a period of pause and transition in the effort to re-take Mosul. The Peshmerga halted on October 18 along the Irbil-Mosul road in the Khazir district as part of the battle plan. They are preparing to attack the Bashiqa district. The ISF in Gwar to the south of the Kurds are supposed to move north and take up the advance from the Peshmerga in Khazir and attack Bartella.

South of Mosul the ISF continued to move forward, but at a slower rate than before, and faced their first setback. Four new towns were freed. At the same time, the Islamic State re-took two towns, Kani Hamran and Abassi, that were freed the day before by the Iraqi 9th and 15th Army Divisions. The ISF was able to move back into the former and was attacking the latter. Another town, Qaraqosh that was declared liberated yesterday also had fighting continue on October 19. The insurgents brought in civilians to act as human shields there.  

The Islamic State was active in other areas as well. It carried out a large assault in the Sinjar district in western Ninewa, perhaps in an attempt to draw away Peshmerga forces, but it was turned back. They also counter attacked in two small towns south of Mosul with car and truck bombs that were destroyed. Overall, those assaults killed two soldiers, and wounded 4 Peshmerga and 25 soldiers. In Azba and al-Hud 24 bodies of people executed by the militants were discovered.

The U.S.-led Coalition increased their support on the third day. The Commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq General Gary Voelsky told the press that American Apache helicopters were attacking IS positions in night operations. No other details were revealed such as where this was going on.

One of the big fears of this operation is that it could lead to a massive displacement and humanitarian disaster, but so far there has been a dispute about what impact the fighting has had so far. Save the Children claimed that 5,000 people crossed from Ninewa into Syria in the last ten days and entered the al-Hol refugee camp. The U.N. disagreed with that figure saying that some of those new arrivals were Syrians. It reported that 912 people had arrived in al-Hol in a 24 hour period.

Finally, in IS controlled areas there were more reports of killings and preparation for the fall of Mosul. Within the city Iraq Oil Report said that the group was burning documents so that they could not be captured. A person also claimed to have seen up to 100 men burned to death by the militants in the town of Tilool Nasir.


ARA News, “Kurdish Peshmerga prepare to seize Bashiqa,” 10/19/16

Associated Press, “US general says Apache helicopters on attack in Iraq,” 10/19/16

Bas News, "IS Executes 16 People in Southern Mosul," 10/19/16

BBC, “Mosul battle: Escaping civilians facing ‘dire conditions,’” 10/19/16
- "Mosul battle: Iraqi army 'retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh," 10/18/16

Beale, Jonathan "Mosul: Intense battles with IS on road to Iraqi city," BBC, 10/19/16

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Oct. 19, 2016," 10/19/16

Iraqi News, "Federal Police forces kill 21 ISIS militants in Bojwana village near Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Federal Police forces liberate 352 km2 of areas south of Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Iraq security forces liberate 3 villages south of Mosul," 10/19/16
- "ISIS attacks Peshmerga with booby-trapped vehicles and 250 militants in Sinjar," 10/19/16

Lister, Tim, Damon, Arwa, Walsh, Nick Paton and Dewan, Angela, “Iraqi-led forces clash with ISIS in push to free Christian town,” CNN, 10/19/16

Shafaq News, "Found eight bodies including a former army officer executed by Daesh before withdrawing from the village of Al Hud," 10/19/16

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Two, Oct 18, 2016

In the second day of the Mosul campaign the advance towards the city slowed. The Kurds halted to consolidate what they had taken the day before, while the Iraqi forces in the south continued to move forward. That was by design, although some Peshmerga and western news reports tried to blame the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There were reports and photographs of western advisers being at the frontlines with the Kurds. On the other hand, the Islamic State was trying to maintain control of its areas.

The Iraqi forces are advancing in two columns from the south on both sides of the Tigris River. On October 18 they freed Qaraqosh, Zawiya, Abassi, Lihoud, Khuder al-Yas, Bajwaniya, Tal al-Samen, Shura, and Hamdaniya. When the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division entered Hud, Islamic State fighters fled, taking around 70 civilians with them to use as human shields. On their way north they forced people from three more towns out of their homes, added them to their makeshift convoy, and executed several people who tried to stop them. 56 oil fields were also freed in the Ain-Ghash area of Qayara. Special Forces commander General Haider al-Obeidi said that they expected weak resistance in the opening phases of the campaign as IS was going to abandon many towns to consolidate in other areas.

There was another report that locals rose up in the town of Lazzagah and expelled the militants. This was the second or third village to do so depending upon which sources are consulted.

To the west, the Peshmerga stopped their advance. The BBC quoted a Kurdish colonel saying that the Peshmerga had reached all of their initial goals on the first day. Now they were to halt as part of the battle plan and wait for the Iraqi army to take the lead. That didn’t stop a few Peshmerga from bad mouthing the Iraqi forces in the press.

The Kurds were not completely silent on the second day however as a Counter Terrorism Unit flew into Hamdaniya for a raid. They destroyed several Islamic State vehicles and three car bombs before they could be used. The unit took some losses, but no figures on how many.

Western advisers are posted with the Kurds. Canadian Special Forces have been training the Peshmerga for two years now, and have been working along the frontlines as well. American Special Forces have also been photographed and filmed with the Kurds. This has been going on for months now given the friendlier and pro-western stance of the Kurds compared to the rest of the country where the Special Forces could run into pro-Iranian Hashd that have rejected the U.S.-led Coalition and threatened to attack westerners.

U.S. and Coalition forces are also providing air and artillery support. The skies above the battle space are full of U.S. and coalition aircraft and drones collecting intelligence and delivering air strikes. American and French artillery are also positioned in Ninewa and firing upon Islamic State positions.

There appeared to be very little fighting during the day. A suicide car bomb did attack the ISF in Nasir and a suicide bomber hit an Iraqi convoy in Bilawet. Casualties were reported but no specifics given. The Iraqi forces also destroyed four car bombs.

In Mosul, IS was reported to be moving around its fighters, while most of the city has shut down. Residents of Mosul contacted by Reuters by phone dismissed the many claims that Islamic State fighters were fleeing Mosul. Iraq Oil Report said that they had moved from the left to right bank of the city. There were two shootouts with resistance groups within Mosul. Most people are said to be staying inside their homes and most shops have closed. While aid agencies are afraid of massive displacement when the fighting for the city starts, there are so few IS fighters available for the defense that major parts of the metropolis may be untouched and residents will simply hunker down in their domiciles waiting for their liberation.

Finally, in Hamam al-Alil, which the ISF is close to reaching the Islamic State is attempting to maintain control. There was a news story that its men were going around flying Iraqi flags from cars and posing as members of the security forces to try to trick civilians into greeting them. 40 people were arrested and reportedly executed by IS as a result of this operation.


BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi army ‘retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh,’” 10/18/16

Dehghanpisheh, Babak and Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq launches Mosul offensive to drive out Islamic State,” Reuters, 10/17/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 18, 2016," 10/18/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 18, 2016,” 10/18/16

Iraqi News, “Federal Police forces recapture 56 oil fields form ISIS near Mosul,” 10/18/16
- "Iraqi forces liberate al-Shura district south of Mosul," 10/18/16

Knights, Michael, “The Liberation of Mosul Will Go Better Than You Think,” Foreign Policy, 10/17/16

Kesling, Ben, “Tensions Arise Among Allies Fighting to Retake ISIS-Held Mosul,” Wall Street Journal, 10/18/16

Al Maalomah, “Daesh trying to tempt the people of Mosul and executed 40 men and teenagers,” 10/18/16

Al Mada, "Federal Police announced the destruction of five car bombs and kill 21 Daash south Mosul," 10/18/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, “Tough resistance from Islamic State slows Iraqi advance on Mosul,” Washington Post, 10/18/16

New Sabah, "Security forces stormed the Hamdaniya district without resistance and Daesh flee toward Mosul," 10/18/16

Reuters, “Canadian troops supporting Kurds in fight in Iraq’s Mosul operation: Sajjan,” 10/18/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces recapture more villages around IS-held Mosul," 10/18/16

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day One, Oct 17, 2016

The battle for Mosul has finally begun. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi announced the beginning of the operation on October 16. Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called it a “historic day,” and it was. While the Islamic State still holds territory in western Anbar along the Syrian border and the Hawija and Riyad areas of southern Kirkuk, Mosul is the organization’s unofficial capital. It was the first major city that the group took when it launched its summer offensive in 2014, and holds great symbolic significance for both it and the Iraqi government. Taking it back will not mean the death knell of IS, but it will be a huge setback to lose a key piece in its caliphate.

Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi promised to free Mosul by the end of the year, so there was immense pressure to get the forces in place and reach a broad agreement amongst all the stakeholders, facilitated by the United States, about their different roles. As a result, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is supposed to be the only ones that enter Mosul itself. The Peshmerga and Hashd are to hold the perimeter. The fear is that if either of those two would go into the city it could turn the population against not only the liberating forces, but the government as well. As Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently noted this operation offers Baghdad a great opportunity to win over the population of Mosul, which has been a hotbed of anti-government and insurgent activity since the U.S. invasion.

The question as ever is whether these agreements will hold. A similar one was made before the Fallujah operation that the Hashd would stay out of the city. As it turned out, Badr members in the Federal Police took part in the battle. The Hashd also claimed that they fought to liberate the Jolan neighborhood in the north of the city. Mosul is such a prize to all the forces involved that they may not be able to resist the temptation to enter it.

That also hints at the difficulties that might emerge after Mosul is taken. Many of the fighting parties would like to claim the city and parts of Ninewa as well. The central government wants to re-integrate Mosul into the country after it has been under the Islamic State’s control for two years. The Kurds may not be interested in running the city itself, but are interested in annexing much of the territory around it and to the south that they say are parts of the disputed areas. Masrour Barzani for example, the son of the Kurdish president said that they would not give up any of the land that it freed from the militants. In turn, members of the pro-Iranian factions of the Hashd have responded that they would not allow the Kurds to seize anything during the Mosul offensive. Former Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi would also like to play a part in his attempt to return to power. As a result, his Hashd al-Watani expressed that they would join in the campaign. He and the Barzanis’ Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are aligned with Turkey, which has a small camp in Bashiqa to the northeast. It wants to use the offensive to assert its hegemony over Ninewa. There is also the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkey, which is based in Sinjar to the west. They have said that they too will attack Mosul along with their Yazidi allies. While some suggested that Mosul should be put off due to all of these conflicting agendas and some sort of political deal be made beforehand that probably would have not worked. Whatever agreement was made could have been overturned by facts on the ground after the battle was over. Negotiations on the future of Mosul and Ninewa therefore are best done afterward.

The actual campaign could be a long one. That’s due to the sheer size of Mosul, which is almost as big as Baghdad. Surrounding it and coordinating between the various groups, many of which do not get along could be a difficult task.

So far the Iraqi forces are advancing along two axes, with the Kurds in the east. Up to 10,000 Peshmerga have set out along the Irbil-Mosul highway. They entered the Khazir area heading towards Bartella and Hamdaniya. The Islamic State set oil wells in the latter on fire to try to prevent air strikes by blocking aerial views of the battlefield. The Kurds claimed they freed ten villages on the first day. In the process they fought off several car and suicide bombings. The press reported that a total of 8 Peshmerga were killed and 11 wounded in the process.

To the south the ISF and Hashd are moving forward from its base in Qayara. The elite Golden Division and army brigades are going up the eastern side of the Tigris River, which leads to Mosul, while other army units and Interior Ministry forces are to the east of the river. The army’s 9th Division said that it liberated six villages on October 16. The ISF also claimed to have killed six suicide bombes. Overall, the media reported that one soldier lots his life and two others were injured during the fighting.

It didn’t appear that there were many IS fighters on either axis. In at least one village it was said that people rose up against the Islamic State and expelled them.

Until the joint forces reach Mosul itself the areas to the west are still under the insurgents control. That will give them an escape route. One Iraqi official told the Washington Post that they were hoping that the militants would give up and flee that way, while an Iraqi general said that the western regions would be targeted by Iraqi aircraft to kill IS elements that might be moving through there.

In Mosul itself there are continued stories of hardships. Its been said that there are only a few hours of electricity available, some areas lack running water, the schools did not open this year, and that IS is carrying out recruiting drives of both young and old to bolster their defenses. Kurdish sources claimed that up to 300 suspected IS deserters have been caught in the last month amongst displaced people. Finally, there are many reports of resistance groups carrying out scattered attacks upon IS in Mosul and the surrounding areas. Islamic State propaganda on the other hand, is trying to portray life as going on normally within the city.

Overall, the first day of the Mosul operation made good progress with little resistance. That will likely change in the coming period when the insurgents’ first line of defense is met. When the city itself is reached the sheer size of it will also pose new challenges as well. The Fallujah campaign however may show that Mosul will go down quicker than some believe. In the former, most of the residents remained in the city along with IS families and leadership. That meant that the group could not build its usual defense in depth right into the heart of the urban areas because there were people in the way. The group for example, couldn’t lay down IED fields in populated districts or booby trap as many homes. What civilians can be used for are human shields, but that is no substitute for sound military preparations. In the end, the city will fall. It is only a matter of time.


Arango, Tim, “A Tour of Falluja Reveals Grim Remnants of Life Under ISIS,” New York Times, 6/22/16

Bas News, “Sunni Forces Trained by Turkey Participating in Mosul Assault: Official,” 10/17/16

eKurd, “Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief – October 17, 2016,” 10/17/16

Iraqi News, “Forces advance to liberate ISIS’ last bastion in central Fallujah,” 6/25/16
- “Iraqi Joint forces liberate 6 villages near Mosul,” 10/17/16
- “Mosul offensive: Iraqi army advances from eastern axis of Nineveh 4 villages liberated,” 10/17/16
- “Mosul offensive: Peshmerga forces approach Bartella and Hamdaniyah,” 10/17/16

Kalin, Stephen and Dmitry Zhdannikov, “Exclusive: U.S. helped clinch Iraq oil deal to keep Mosul battle on track,” Reuters, 10/3/16

Al Mada, “The army and the Peshmerga are moving to the east and south of Mosul .. Daesh are preparing to move to the right coast of the city,” 10/17/16
- “The joint forces isolating Fallujah after the liberation of Garma and Nuaimiya on the first day of the start of the operation,” 5/23/16
- “Operations: Hawija will not be freed first before the popular crowd is tasked with cordoning off Mosul,” 10/17/16

Al Masalah, "Six suicide bombers killed trying to storm the army lines south of Mosul," 10/17/16

Morris, Loveday, “Battle to banish Islamic State from Mosul could become a mess,” Washington Post, 10/12/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, “Iraqi attack on Mosul begins as forces push toward Islamic State stronghold,” Washington Post, 10/17/16

NINA, “Washington Refuses PKK’s Participation in Mosul Operations,” 10/15/16

Nordland, Rod, “Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul, a Beleaguered Stronghold for ISIS,” New York Times, 10/16/16

Osgood, Patrick and Tahir, Rawaz, “Operation to liberate Mosul begins,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/17/16

Rudaw, “Live Updates: the battle for Mosul,” 10/17/16
- “Sunni militia to come under Peshmerga command for Mosul operation,” 10/4/16

Sattar, Sardar, “Masrour Barzani: Peshmerga to Stay in Newly-liberated Areas,” Bas News, 10/17/16

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces fighting all out to free Mosul from IS,” 10/17/16