The Iraqi authorities have released contradictory statements about the current pace of the Mosul campaign. At the start of December the Iraqi forces (ISF) said they were halting their operations, but that was later denied. The reality on the ground shows that things have almost ground to a halt. U.S. Air Force General Matthew Isler told Reuters that the ISF were in an operational pause to refit and resupply before they renewed their push into Mosul. While there has been fighting across eastern Mosul each day with two car bombs destroyed and mortars killing 10 civilians and wounding 34 others on December 21, there has been little news of any real advances for the last few days.
What has been happening is preparation for a new push, while trying to secure the liberated areas. A military source said that the Golden Division was looking for weak points in the Islamic State’s defenses in Mosul to be exploited when operations start up again, while the Ghazlani camp in the south has been shelled for three days now. Finally, the Golden Division was turning over areas of east Mosul to newly arrived police that have been shifted from the south into the city. That will free up units to rejoin the fight.
Rudaw interviewed General Fazil Barwari of the Golden Division about the progress in Mosul. Barwari noted that several parts of the operation have not gone as planned. Local leaders in the city told the government that there would be a popular uprising against the Islamic State once the Iraqi forces arrived, but that didn’t happen. The ISF also expected civilians to flee conflict areas, but they didn’t making the fighting all that more difficult. Finally, the original plan was to take the city in two months. Barwari told Rudaw that there were still routes from Mosul to Syria, and that IS has received reinforcements from Syria. That contradicted statements by the Hashd who have repeatedly said they have cut IS’s supply lines to Syria. It’s obvious that the Mosul battle has been more difficult than many expected. Optimistic statements about the city being freed by the end of the year and IS defenses collapsing are slowly giving way to more realistic predictions that there are still weeks more of fighting ahead.
Finally, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 50 people from east Mosul who experienced a variety of attacks by the Islamic State as they attempted to flee the fighting. As the government forces advanced IS men went from house to house asking civilians if they would flee with them. Those that did not were labeled traitors and unbelievers and told that they would suffer as a result. IS has been targeting areas along the front and liberated ones as well with mortars and sniper fire. This has been documented by the Iraqi and international press as well. Almost every day the insurgents are firing mortars and causing civilian casualties.
Adel, Loaa, “Federal Police shells IS camp near Guzlani, kills dozens of terrorists,” Iraqi News, 12/21/16
Ahmed, Hevidar, “’Urban war is not easy,’ commander of Iraq’s elite Golden Division force,” Rudaw, 12/21/16
AIN, “Urgent anti-terrorism commander: starting to hand over liberated neighborhoods in Mosul to the police,” 12/21/16
Al Alam, "44 civilians killed and injured in ISIS Mortar Attack in Mosul," 12/21/16
Face Iraq, “Joint Operations: we are trying to open gapsto enter the rest of the neighborhoods on the left coast of Mosul,” 12/21/16
Al Forat, "The destruction of Daesh car bomb southeast Mosul," 12/21/16
Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: ISIS Attacking Civilians in Mosul Retreat,” 12/20/16
Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi forces in Mosul mostly in refit mode: U.S. general,” Reuters, 12/21/16