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

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