Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 162, March 27, 2017

Comparison of maps of Old City district of west Mosul March 19 vs March 27. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division are pushing from the south and have made no real advances over the last week. The Golden Division has advanced along the western section of the district however to attack the Islamic State from the flank.
Green is liberated, Red contested, Gold is Islamic State, Blue is the Tigris River (Iraqi Day)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) made contradictory remarks about their operations in Mosul. General Othman Ghanmi army chief of staff issued a statement that 50% of west Mosul was now under government control. ISF commanders have issued different figures and percentages on their progress based upon varying measurements. 50% is roughly right based upon the area of west Mosul. General Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah said there was no time limit on how long it would take to free the rest of the city. The government forces are fighting street to street, and the weather has been a hindrance as well. On the other hand the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command claimed that the battle for Mosul was done. The battle in fact has hit a stalemate forcing the Iraqi forces to change their battle plan. What is new is that the Golden Division has moved up the western side of the Old City district and to prepare to attack the Islamic State from its flank. Federal Police Commander Raed Jawadat stated that the Federal Police and the Rapid Reaction Division were making rapid progress in their assault upon the Old City. Some small advances were made. The two police forces are still aiming to taking the Grand Mosque in the district. The Golden Division’s General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi told the press that the Islamic State’s defenses had been destroyed around the mosque. That’s yet to be seen as the police are still roughly in the same area they have been for over a week now. Finally, according to a Federal Police officer reinforcements and 80 armored personnel carriers arrived as part of the change in tactics in the campaign. Those will not likely be used in the Old City where many of the streets are too narrow for vehicles to be used. They could also just be replacements to make up for losses.

The ISF are still putting out disinformation about the Jadida incident. An inquiry by the Joint Operations Command found 130 people had been forced into a house by the Islamic State, and snipers put on the roof. A car bomb was destroyed outside, which led to the collapse of the building and the civilian casualties. This happened in Hajj however not Jadida. Yesterday the Iraqi forces claimed that IS had booby trapped a house with civilians in it and no air strike was involved. That was not in Jadida either, but Resala. The point of these statements is to put out as much contradictory information as possible to mislead the press and public, while denying any air strike took place. The booby trapped house story for example was widely reported in the international press, but not the fact that it didn't happen in Jadida. The government’s official line is that casualties are not to be reported, and when deadly events like this occur they are to be attacked and discredited.

Speaking of air strikes, two occurred in two separate neighborhoods of west Mosul. The Coalition was blamed, and 43 people in total were killed.

There were more civilian deaths due to the Islamic State as well. The group shot an imam, and 6 were killed in a mortar attack.

U.S. Special Forces operative on right dressed in black to look like Iraqi Counter Terrorism troops on the left (Army Complex)

The Military Times revealed that U.S. Special Forces are trying to camouflage their presence amongst the Iraqi forces inside Mosul. Several pictures were posted on social media of Americans wearing black uniforms similar to the Golden Division’s. American flags were seen patched onto the back of one U.S. operative to distinguish himself from the Iraqis. Under President Trump U.S. forces are now being forward deployed with the ISF. Donning black is likely a way to hide their presence, and not make them targets of IS fire.

The Ninewa Council voted to declare Ninewa a disaster area. A majority of the members passed the proposal. There was no information given on what this meant in terms of dealing with the affects of the fighting. Since neither the province nor the central government has much money it’s unclear what could happen.

Civilians in Mosul are in a desperate situation. Both sides of the city are facing severe shortages of food, water, and basic services. Some volunteer groups are attempting to do what they can. Diwaniya Civil Committee is a volunteer group from Qadisiyah that collected donations from their province, and is now handing out aid to people inside the city. They said they are following the call by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to do charitable work and help the country’s Sunnis. The Academy of Emergency Medicine from Slovakia is providing medical support inside west Mosul where all the heavy fighting is taking place. The Iraqi forces also hand out food and water when they can. Few other organizations nor the government are otherwise present in the city, leaving many people in need.

The displacement crisis in Ninewa is continuing to develop. Families leaving west Mosul are reporting more casualties from air and mortar attacks. There are people still coming out of east Mosul as well from the Sumer, Intisar and Gogjali neighborhoods due to a lack of services and jobs. The camps south of the city are overflowing and there are several thousand spaces available in a camp to the east. The Iraqi authorities are not telling the displaced (IDPs) about it however, and not providing much transportation their either. This has been going on for weeks now despite pleas by the United Nations to fix it, pointing official mismanagement. There are now thousands of people camping around Hamam al-Alil, which is where IDPs are sent when they come out of the city. They say they don’t want to go to camps because they can’t leave, and want to stay close to Mosul to return as soon as they can. The United Nations complained that Kurdish security forces were confiscating IDs of people when they entered camps there so they couldn’t leave, and then weren’t given them back when they got permission to do so. Baghdad has also banned returns to four villages south of Mosul. No reason has been given, and that has led to complaints. A growing number of people are requesting permission to relocate to other provinces rather than go back to their homes. A worker from the Mosul Security Directorate said 1,000-1,500 permits were being issued per day in January to move. Many of these are professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers. Many say they have nothing to go back to and they have already re-started in other areas such as Kurdistan. Many doctors for example have set up offices in Irbil. Other factors are the continued shelling by the Islamic State of liberated areas, and the fear that IS could return and target them. These all show the constantly changing dynamics of IDPs. People are constantly moving in and out of the city. Some want to get back as soon as they can, some are barred from returning, while others feel they need a new start in a different location.


Baghdad Post, "ISIS killed Mosque's Imam in Mosul right bank," 3/27/17

Balkiz, Ghazi, Mohammad, Muwafaq and Damon, Arwa, “Mosul: 112 civilian bodies pulled from site of coalition airstrike,” CNN, 3/27/17

BBC, “Scale of Mosul civilian deaths alarms Amnesty International,” 3/27/17

Buratha News, “Joint forces reveal the results of the Mosul massacre,” 3/27/17
- “Ninewa Operations Command: No time limit to resolve the battle fighting in the alleys and streets,” 3/27/17
- “Rapid progress by security forwards towards southwest Mosul,” 3/27/17

deGrandpre, Andrew, “Inside Mosul, U.S. military advisers wear black to blend in with elite Iraqi units,” Military Times, 3/26/17

Kimball, Sam, “Mosul air strikes: ‘Everything crashed down upon us,’” Al Jazeera, 3/27/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: March 27, 2017,” 3/28/17

Al Maalomah, "Civil Defense Forces excavate six bodies from the rubble in Jadida," 3/27/17

Middle East Eye, “Battle for Mosul: ‘We’ll probably kill him later. The prisons in Baghdad are full,’” 3/27/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "43 more civilians killed in western Mosul airstrikes," Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Army chief says 50% of western Mosul under troops control,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Iraqi command: western Mosul battle finished “on a military level,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Shia paramilitary wants U.S. troops excluded to keep Mosul battle “clean,”” Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Mousa, Ahmad with Karim, Ammar, "Iraq forces launch renewed attack on Mosul's Old City," Agence France Presse, 3/27/17

Mustafa, Nehal, “Civilian deaths, Old City fight force Mosul battle rethink,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- "IS member injured, wife killed in explosion western Mosul," Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Nehal, Mustafa, “Iraqi police advance to south of central Mosul’s Old City: commander,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Amid the Mosul Massacres, There is Also Mercy,” Daily Beast, 3/26/17

New Sabah, “Daesh front lines destroyed near the Great Mosque and Hadbaa lighthouse in Mosul city,” 3/27/17
- “Ninewa Council votes to declare the province a disaster area,” 3/27/17

Oda, Suha, “Why aren’t Mosul residents returning to liberated areas?” Al Monitor, 3/27/17

Rudaw, “Many displaced people from Mosul return home says migration organization,” 3/27/17
- “US central command investigating Mosul’s deadly bombing,” 3/27/17

Shafaaq News, "Iraqi forces cut off 5 areas by penetrating into the Old City of Mosul," 3/27/17
- "Popular crowd foils biggest attack by Daish west of Tal Afar," 3/27/17
- “Urgent: the arrival of large military reinforcements to the battle of Mosul for new tactics,” 3/27/17

Sotaliraq, "A suicide bomber was killed south of Mosul," 3/27/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Mosul Weekly Protection Update, 18-24 March, 2017,” 3/24/17

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 161, March 26, 2017

It’s gotten to the point that the Iraqi forces (ISF) are actively spreading disinformation about the Jadida air strike incident in west Mosul. The Joint Operations Command issued a statement saying on March 17 a unit from the Golden Division called in a Coalition air strike to take care of an Islamic State car bomb. After clearing the area they found that the Islamic State had herded civilians inside a booby-trapped house packed with explosives and detonated it. There were no signs of damage coming from the air in the building. A large car bomb also detonated next to the house. In total 61 bodies were taken out of the rubble. The problem with this story is that this took place in Resala, not Jadida. Since news of this incident came out the ISF has been denying that it happened. This is part of the government’s propaganda campaign where no casualties are reported. When deadly events like this do happen the authorities seek to discredit it, but it just shows that Baghdad is not a reliable source in these matters.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 160, March 25, 2017

News about Mosul was dominated by the Coalition bombing that left over 200 casualties. U.S. officials have admitted that the Coalition carried out air strikes in the Jadida neighborhood on March 17, but not to causing any losses. General Saadi of the Golden Division was quoted in the New York Times that the Iraqi forces called in a hit on three houses that the Islamic State were using for snipers, but they didn’t know there were civilians inside. He went on to claim that this was a trap set by IS to stop the battle. Another Iraqi general told the Washington Post that there was a car bomb outside the buildings and that contributed to the casualties, but civil defense officials who are responsible for digging through the debris for bodies and survivors said there was no sign of any vehicle bomb. According to Mosul municipal chief Abdul Sattar al-Habbo 240 bodies had been found so far. Bodies were still being pulled out of the debris by March 25, and restrictions on journalists were also put in place in the area. Both the Coalition and the Iraqi Defense Ministry have opened investigations into the matter. The Iraqi forces have been largely disingenuous over this incident. At first they denied anything happened, claiming the Islamic State was making up stories, and the media was not telling the truth, and they could be sued for doing so. Now they are saying that a car bomb might have contributed to the deaths, but that doesn’t appear to be true either. They are still trying to put all the blame on the insurgents. While the Iraqis might not have known there were people inside the three buildings, this was not part of an IS plot as the militants have used human shields since the start of the Mosul campaign in October, and have been forcing people to stay inside their fire positions for weeks now. Overall, this is part of a larger campaign by the government to deny bad news coming out of the war with IS especially if it involves civilians dying.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 159, March 24, 2017

The Mosul offensive has ground down into a stalemate. While areas are still regularly freed, they are relatively small, and the Iraqi forces (ISF) have not been able to make any serious advances into the Old City district along the Tigris River. Poor weather has limited air support and led the ISF to start and stop their operations again and again over the last few weeks. The dense layout of the area has meant the ISF are not able to use their vehicles many times. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a tough defense. They have an extensive tunnel system underneath the city. They have burrowed holes through walls to allow them to move house to house without venturing outside. They have blocked off streets with cars, burned fires to obscure visibility, deployed snipers upon rooftops, and constantly moved back and forth through areas to try to avoid enemy fire.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 158, March 23, 2017

Poor weather again hindered the Iraqi forces (ISF). The Federal Police halted their operations for the day because air support was limited by rain. The Golden Division seized the Yabessat neighborhood in the southwest section of the Old City. The ISF have still only penetrated the perimeter of the district, and it looks like there will be many hard days of fighting before they’re done and move on to the rest of the Mosul.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 157, March 22, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were still slowly but surely pushing into the Old City district of west Mosul. The Golden Division attacked the Yabsaat, Yarmouk, Rajim al-Hadid and Wai al-Ain areas, while the apartments in Yarmouk were freed. There was still fighting in Nablus and Resala, which were officially declared cleared yesterday. The Federal Police were also forced to retreat in Jadid due to Islamic State attacks. That neighborhood was freed on March 12. There were also heavy clashes in Bab al-Tob. So far the ISF have only penetrated into the perimeter of the Old City. Poor weather has limited air support. The dense layout of the sector has meant the Iraqis usually have to dismount and move street to street, house to house. IS is also putting up a stiff defense.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 155-56, March 20-21, 2017

Battle landscapes in west Mosul (Reuters)

Things are still going slow in trying to capture the Old City district in west Mosul. The Golden Division, coming form the southwest took the Resala and Nablus neighborhoods officially. Some streets were liberated as well, which is a perfect example of how things are progressing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 8-14, 2017

Violence has remained steady in Iraq since the Mosul campaign restarted in the middle of February. Security incidents remained at a low level across the country, with almost all the attacks going on in Ninewa for obvious reasons.

There were a total of 170 incidents from March 8-14, 2017. 104 of those were in Ninewa, followed by 31 in Baghdad, 10 in Anbar, 7 each in Salahaddin and Kirkuk, 5 in Diyala, 3 in Basra, and 1 each in Babil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniya.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 154, March 19, 2017

Federal Police fighting in Old City in west Mosul (Reuters)

Map of progress in Old City west Mosul. Green is liberated areas. Red is contested. Tan is under Islamic State control. Blue in right hand corner is the Tigris River. (Iraqi Day)

Fighting in the Old City went back and forth. The Golden Division attacking from the west took the Nablus area. There were renewed clashes in Bab al-Tob, which was just declared officially freed for the second time yesterday. Cramped streets, poor weather, tough defenses by the Islamic State have all slowed down progress in the city. The immediate goal remains taking the Grand Mosque where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014. After that is taken there will still be the majority of the Old City to be assaulted.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 153, March 18, 2017

National Security Service arrest an IS suspect in east Mosul (Telegraph)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were back on the offensive in Mosul despite the bad weather that has slowed progress lately. The Bab al-Tob neighborhood was officially declared cleared for the second time. The first time was on March 15, but then the next day there was bombing going on. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division also said they had taken the Arbiaa, Kur, and Tawafa, and attacked Bab al-Saray, all of which are in the Old City along the Tigris River. The immediate goal is to seize the Grand Mosque. Heavy rain has limited air support. The Old City is densely laid out with narrow streets, which has reduced much of the fighting to house-to-house battles. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a sturdy defense. These have all contributed to the slow going in recent days.

Mosul Campaign Day 162, March 27, 2017

Comparison of maps of Old City district of west Mosul March 19 vs March 27. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Divisio...