Monday, October 31, 2016

Musings On Iraq In The News


Mosul Campaign Day Fourteen, Oct 30, 2016


The joint Iraqi forces were pushing in on Mosul from all sides on October 30. The Hashd who are now moving from the south towards Tal Afar west of Mosul made some more conspiratorial accusations against the U.S., while threatening to go to Syria after Mosul was liberated. Ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi also gave his thoughts on the campaign.

The Iraqi army, Peshmerga and Hashd all took towns on October 30. The 9th Division took Ali Rash in the east, the Peshmerga two towns, and the Hashd six as well in the southwest. The Hashd recently joined the fray headings towards Tal Afar to the west of Mosul. An Iraqi security official told Reuters that the Islamic State recently reinforced that town with more fighters. The spokesman for Asaib Ahl Al-Haq accused the U.S. of trying to hinder their operations by scrambling their communications. The pro-Iranian Hashd groups often make these types of comments including ones about the Americans supporting the Islamic State, so this was nothing new. Overall, most of the other joint forces ere consolidating the front before they renewed their push on Mosul.

The Hashd and an Iraqi officials have talked about continuing their fight into Syria. National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayad said that the wars in Iraq and Syria were one in the same and Iraqi forces may have to enter the latter to fight IS. The next day one of the spokesman for the Hashd, Ahmed al-Assadi said Iraqis would go to Syria to help President Assad against the Islamists. There are thousands of Iraqis already fighting in Syria for various armed groups organized and funded by Iran. If Iraqi forces were to officially cross the border into its neighbor’s territory that would be a huge escalation, but these comments appear to be just talk for now, although Fayad’s was the first to come from a government official.

Several months ago the Iraqi army captured the Qayara air base south of Mosul. U.S. engineers set to work on the facility immediately, and in the first week of the campaign it was re-opened. On October 30 the first Iraqi air force transport plane landed at the field. This will be a huge help to the Iraqi forces as logistics is still one of their weak points.

Ex-Ninewa governor Atheel Nujafi made some comments about the on going battle for Mosul and what he thought of the future of the province. He said the Hashd and Turkish Workers’ Party (PKK) needed to stay out of the city otherwise there would be trouble. He went on to say that he understood why sections of the province wanted to join Kurdistan, and that Ninewa should become a federal region after IS was expelled. Nujafi is aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Turkey, and lives in Kurdistan, which is why he supported the Kurds annexing the disputed areas of Ninewa and opposed the PKK. He is also an opponent of the Baghdad government, and that is why he wanted Ninewa to become a region. Nujafi was hoping to use the Mosul campaign as a way to make a political comeback, and he has his own armed force the Hashd al-Watani backed by the KDP and Ankara. They have not taken part in the campaign however. He also has an arrest warrant out for him, which means he cannot safely leave Kurdish controlled areas where central government warrants are not usually served without the threat of being arrested. Together that means he’s likely to have little influence on the future of Ninewa.

SOURCES

Buratha News, “Military spokesman for the League of the Righteous: American forces trying to block western Mosul military operations,” 10/30/16

Face Iraq, “Falah al-Fayad: After the battle of Mosul, we may have to enter areas of Syria to hunt down Daesh,” 10/29/16
- “Media cell announced the landing of a C-130 air cargo plane for the first time at Qayyarah base since its liberation,” 10/30/16

Iraq News Network, “Najafi: 80% of the people of Mosul are demanding Nineveh province be saved from the popular crowd crimes and the sectarian Baghdad government,” 10/30/16

Kalin, Stephen and Georgy, Michael, "Iraqi Shi'ite commander says Mosul battle 'no picnic' as troops advance," Reuters, 10/30/16

Al Maalomah, "Popular crowd freed the village of Al Amarena southwest of Mosul," 10/30/16

Rudaw, “Iraqi Shiite militia: after Mosul we’ll go to Syria to fight for Assad,” 10/30/16

Al Sumaria, "Badr announces the freeing of five villages west of Mosul," 10/30/16


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Thirteen, Oct 29, 2016


The Hashd and Federal Police were moving southwest of Mosul heading for the town of Tal Afar on the thirteenth day of the Mosul operation. That led to more inflammatory remarks by Turkey. There were also more executions by the Islamic State and displacement.

On October 29, 2016 the Hashd announced they were joining the Hashd operation. The aim was to capture the towns of Hatra, Tal Abta and Tal Afar. The various groups were taking three routes to Tal Afar from the southeast. They were supported by elements of the Federal Police. Together they freed 15 towns.

The Hashd entering the fray led to more angry comments by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He threatened to reinforce the border town of Silopi near Tal Afar to protect the town’s Turkmen against any Hashd terrorism. On the other hand, the Turkish Foreign minister offered diplomatic talks to resolve Turkey’s military base in Bashiqa, which Baghdad has demanded by abandoned. Ankara has constantly made these types of comments as it considers Mosul under its sphere of influence. It does not want the Hashd involved in the campaign, seeing them as pro-Iranian, sectarian actors. It also wants to be part of the liberation process to ensure its influence, but all it has done so far is anger many Iraqis and Baghdad.

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was also at work. The army and Federal Police said they had freed Shura for the second time. It was originally declared freed the second day of the operation, but that appeared to be an exaggeration. The 9th Division of the Iraqi army liberated another six villages.

In Mosul, there was more news of massacres and displacement. The Iraqi Human Rights Commission claimed 100 people were executed in Mosul. Iraq Oil Report also received a story from a resident that civilians were trying to abandon the city. There are still reports of sporadic attacks by resistance movements against the Islamic State inside Mosul.

Finally, there were some new figures on the number of displaced that this campaign has caused. On October 28 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees stated that 16,566 people had left their homes since the Mosul campaign started on October 17. At the same time, around 900 people had already left the camp at Debaga and gone back to their homes in the Qayara district south of Mosul. October 29 the International Organization for Migration had approximately 17,500 displaced so far. The U.N. has mentioned that there is a constant flow of people south of Mosul with people fleeing the Islamic State, but others returning to their towns as son as they are liberated.

SOURCES

Abdallah, Amir, "Human Rights Commission: ISIS executes 100 civilians in Mosul," Iraqi News, 10/29/16

Adel, Loaa, "Federal Police liberate 2 villages in Shura area," 10/29/16

Agence France Presse, “Iraq forces launch operation to cut Mosul off from Syria,” 10/29/16

Bas News, “Turkey Aims to Reinforce Military on Iraq’s Border against Militias,” 10/29/16

Buratha News, "Popular crowd forces exploded 20 bombs during operations west of Mosul," 10/29/16

Al Forat, "Pictures .. Five martyrs of the Ashura brigade in the battle to liberate Mosul," 10/29/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 29, 2016,” 10/29/16

Iraqi News, "Iraqi forces liberate al-Shura district south of Mosul," 10/18/16

Al Maalomah, "The martyrdom of four soldiers in bombing by the international coalition north of Mosul," 10/29/16

Morris, Loveday and Salim, Mustafa, “Shiite militias join offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State,” Washington Post, 10/29/16

NINA, “A Turkish invitation to Baghdad to resolve the Ba’shiqah camp crisis diplomatically,” 10/28/16

NRT TV, "Peshmerga Forces Foil ISIS Attack East of Mosul," 10/29/16

Rudaw, "LIVE UPDATES MOSUL OFFENSIVE: DAY 13," 10/29/16

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq: Situation Flash Update, 28 October 2016,” 10/28/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces free town from IS in south of Mosul," 10/29/16

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Twelve, Oct 28, 2016


The next phase of the Mosul operation opened on October 28 when the Hashd opened the western front pushing towards Tal Afar. The United Nations also documented thousands of people being kidnapped by the Islamic State to be used as human shields. The insurgents also continued their wholesale slaughter of civilians. Finally, Turkey issued more statements attempting to assert themselves into the campaign.

The Hashd finally entered the battle on a large scale on October 28. They took two towns west of Mosul heading towards Tal Afar. Up to this point the Islamic State’s corridor to Syria has remained opened. Now the Hashd and Federal Police are going to try to cut that off.

The Federal Police in the south freed two villages as well. Otherwise there was no other news by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. A pause has been coming as the forces solidify their frontlines before making their next push onto Mosul itself.

As the Islamic State has been losing territory it has taken thousands of people with them to be used as hostages. The United Nations recorded around 5,370 families, approximately 60,000 people who had been forced to retreat with the militants. 160 came form the Qayara district, 150 from Hamam al-Alil area, and 2,210 from the Nimrud district. These people have been taken to Hamam Al-Alil and Mosul to be used as human shields. Those that have not gone with IS have been killed.

There were more reports of mass executions by IS. The U.N. had 232 former members of the security forces killed in the first week of the operation. On October 27 18 were killed in Shura and 22 in Mosul, with another 41 outside Mosul on October 28.

IS announced that it had sent in an extra unit to Mosul to bolster the defenses. IS media said that the Al-Sham battalion came form Raqqa to the city. A resident recounted that new fighters had come from Syria as well.

Finally, Turkey continued to claim that it was taking part in the campaign. Ankara’s Foreign Minister Mouloud Jawish Oglu in a press conference stated that 3,000 Iraqis that it had trained were taking part in the Mosul operation. That was probably a reference to ex-Governor Atheel Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani that has not fact been involved so far. He went on to claim that Turkish planes were carrying out missions, and that his country was one of the most involved in the fight against IS. These statements and others have constantly inflamed Iraqis and the government who have demanded that Turkey remove its troops from Ninewa and stop trying to interfere. President Recep Erdogan however continues to ignore Baghdad.

SOURCES

Al Aalem, "War Media; The deaths of nearly 300 Daash and the liberation of many villages over the last 24 hour period," 10/28/16

Buratha News, "Popular crowd frees Huwaider village southwest of Mosul," 10/28/16
- "Popular crowd frees Omhervh area south of Mosul," 10/28/16

Cumming-Bruce, Nick, "ISIS Kills More Than 200 as Battle for Mosul Intensifies," New York Times, 10/28/16

Iraqi News, “Baghdadi announces arrival of al-Sham Battalion to raise his fighters’ morale,” 10/27/16
- "ISIS executes 22 persons by electrocution in central Mosul," 10/27/16

NINA, "Daesh executed 18 young residents of the Shura district during the process of storming south of Mosul," 10/27/16
- “Turkish Foreign Ministry: Three thousand Iraqi fighters trained by us fighting against Daesh,” 10/27/16

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Battle for Mosul: ISIL forces thousands of civilians from their homes and executes hundreds,” 10/28/16

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Eleven, Oct 27, 2016


The Mosul operation continued to go in fits and spurts. With the first phase of the operation coming to an end, there are days when there are fewer advances, which was what happened on October 27. On the other side, IS was building its defenses while exploiting and murdering civilians. The U.S. also tried to mediate between Iraq and Turkey once more, and there was more displacement from the fighting.

From October 26-27, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Peshmerga freed over two dozen towns. On October 26 twenty towns were declared liberated, but seven of them were said to have been reached in pervious days. Similarly, on October 27 four more towns were cleared, but one of them the Kurds claimed they had already gone through. Since 2014 Baghdad and Irbil have been using a victory narrative that promotes constant advances and victories over the Islamic State. Unfortunately that has led to some exaggeration as shown with the examples above.

So far the joint forces have been pushing towards Mosul from all sides but the west, but that is about to change. The Hashd and Federal Police have been charged with capturing Tal Afar, an important border town with Syria that has traditionally been used by IS to ferry in fighters and supplies into Iraq. Hashd units started moving into position to start this new phase in the offensive.

In al-Houd the residents rose up and expelled the Islamic State. A resident who took part in the fight said they asked the army for help but were turned down. He was none too pleased. This was the third or fourth town that has rebelled against the militants since the Mosul campaign started.

Details about how the Islamic State has been using human shields have started coming out. The Washington Post interviewed several people about what happened to them. One was Mohammed Ali who retold when IS was leaving his village the group got on loudspeakers and told the inhabitants they had to go with the fighters to be used as shields or they would be killed. 

Depending upon which stories you read the Islamic State has either been evacuating Mosul from the start, or is sending in reinforcements. The National Iraqi News Agency for example talked with a Mosul resident who saw several hundred IS fighters arrive from Raqqa. That same day Iraq Oil Report heard from a civilian who claimed IS men were leaving the city. The U.S. military however told CNN that it had not seen any large movement of IS members in or out of Mosul.

What is not disputed is that the insurgents are preparing to defend the city. IS was setting up concrete barriers and forcing people out of their homes to lay booby-traps. The disadvantage the group is facing is that it only has a few thousand fighters to protect a huge urban area. Another issue is that there is a large population inside still, including IS families. That means the group cannot lay down defenses in depth as it did in Tikrit and Ramadi previously, which were almost empty of people. IS is said to have left much of the eastern side of the city, and that is likely where there will be more bunkers, IEDs, etc.

IS continued with its executions in Mosul. 22 more people were reportedly killed.

The number of displaced went up again. On October 26 the United Nations had 10,500 people having left their homes. The next day that had gone up to 11,700. The Associated Press found that some of the displaced were being arbitrarily detained and some even executed as they escaped the Islamic State. AP talked to a local security man at a checkpoint who said he had arrested 100 people on suspicion that they were IS supporters and killed two of them. In the wake of every security operation there is vetting that needs to be done to weed out insurgents. The problem is that this is often done in an opaque fashion, people have been held for long periods, sometimes incommunicado, and entire towns have sometimes been declared off limits and been left empty.

Finally, the U.S. is still attempting to mend fences between Iraq and Turkey. President Obama called Turkish President Recep Erdogan on October 26. Obama told Erdogan he should concentrate on fighting the Islamic State and cooperate with Baghdad. Given Ankara’s belligerent comments and attitude the White House’s attempt probably fell on deaf ears.

SOURCES

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

ARA News, "Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi forces expel ISIS from nine more villages near Mosul," 10/27/16

Bas News, "Iraqi Security Forces Advancing Towards Central Mosul," 10/24/16
- "Peshmerga liberates 3 Villages in Northern Mosul," 10/23/16
- "Peshmerga Liberates Another Christian Village Near Mosul," 10/26/16
- “Villagers Drive out IS from Their Village in Southern Mosul,” 10/27/16

BBC, “Mosul battle: IS ‘loses hundreds of fighters’ – US generals,” 10/27/16

Bergen, Peter, “ISIS leaders may flee Mosul as their ranks are decimated,” CNN, 10/27/16

Buratha News, “Recent development in the liberation campaign,” 10/27/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 26, 2016," 10/26/16
- "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 27, 2016," 10/27/16

George, Susannah, “Iraqis dispense what they call justice for alleged militants,” Associated Press, 10/27/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct 26, 2016,” 10/26/16
- “Inside Mosul: Oct. 27, 2016,” 10/27/16

Iraqi News, "Federal Police forces liberate 2 villages north of Shura," 10/27/16
- "ISIS executes 22 persons by electrocution in central Mosul," 10/27/16
- "Peshmerga forces recapture Dirk village near Bashiqa," 10/26/16

Al Mada, "Freed five villages in the vicinity of Bartila," 10/24/16

Morris, Loveday, “Islamic State militants are kidnapping thousands of people to use as human shields,” Washington Post, 10/27/16

NINA, “Eyewitnesses to a US network: Hundreds of Daesh terrorists arrive in Mosul, coming from the Syrian Al-Raqqa,” 10/26/16
- "The Joint forces control Al- Hamdaniya center southeast of Mosul," 10/26/16
- "Peshmerga Clash with Daesh in Ba'shiqah, liberate villages 2 Villages north of Mosul," 10/23/16
- "Urgent anti-terrorism device forces liberated seven villages and areas on the outskirts of Mosul," 10/26/16

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

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Obama Asks Erdogan To Coordinate With U.S., Iraq In Fight Against IS,” 10/27/16

Rudaw, "LIVE UPDATES MOSUL BATTLE: Day 4," 10/20/16
- "UPDATES: Mosul offensive, Day 8," 10/24/16
- "UPDATES: Mosul offensive, Day 9," 10/25/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces advance closer to new positions outside IS-held Mosul," 10/26/16
- "Iraqi forces recapture town from IS as troops push on Mosul," 10/22/16

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.

SOURCES

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.

SOURCES

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
658

Previous Reports

SOURCES

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.
(Guardian)

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


SOURCES

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


SOURCES

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:


SOURCES

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


Post Mosul Liberation Day 10 Jul 20 2017

July 20, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) admitted that fighting continued in the Old City of West Mosul. First, U.S. l...