Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 187, Apr 21, 2017


The Iraqi forces were involved in heavy fighting across west Mosul. There were clashes between the Islamic State and Golden Division in the Siha neighborhood, and with the police in the Old City district. The Golden Division has been making steady progress up the middle and western section of the city, while the police have been stuck in the Old City for more than a month. The narrow streets, dense layout of buildings, and Islamic State defenses have all held up taking the district.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 186, Apr 20, 2017


April 19 Iraqi police claimed they had liberated 30-40% of the Old City. Newest map shows no changes in district. Bulge on left was recent 200m advance police made April 16, otherwise no movement in south for over month now (Ninewa Media Center)

The Golden Division was still advancing in the center of west Mosul. The Nasr neighborhood was declared freed, and there was fighting in Haramat, Siha, and Tanak. The unit has been making steady progress in the middle and western section of the city.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 185, Apr 19, 2017



PM Abadi visiting west Mosul (Rudaw)

Iraqi propaganda again obscured what was going on in west Mosul. First, the Golden Division freed the Thawra neighborhood in the center of the city on April 18. Then on April 19 a spokesman for the Rapid Reaction Division claimed that 30% of the Old City had been taken, while a police major had it at 40%. The major said this was the result of 38 days of fighting in the district. The police have largely been on pause for the last month however, and no neighborhoods were named as being liberated. The Federal Police also reported that it was destroying Islamic State sites in the district, fighting in Farouq Street like they have for weeks now, and attempting to connect with the Golden Division in Thawra. All the previous reports had the police advancing block by block with no large sections being seized. To add to the confusion, the daily map released by the government showed the Golden Division’s latest movement in the center of the city, but no change in the Old City. Not only that it had new sections in the north being taken, yet this was not announced in any press releases. Recently the 9th Division and Hashd took the towns that were just outside of the city, but nothing else has been heard from them since then. The Iraqi government is notorious for exaggerating and making claims before they happen and it would seem this was another example.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 184, Apr 18, 2017


Iraqi Federal Police firing a mortar in Old City, west Mosul (USA Today)

The Golden Division maintained its push into central west Mosul. Its forces were still fighting in the Thawra and Tanak neighborhoods. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi claimed that once those two were taken the Old City district would be mostly surrounded. In actuality the division would just be pushing along its perimeter more. That’s what the Golden Division has been doing for the last month. Taking the district remains the job of the police who are only making halting progress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 183, Apr 17, 2017


Bulge in middle of map represent recent gains by Golden Division in center of west Mosul. Green at top is where 9th Division seized entrances to northwest section of city. Iraqi police still fighting over Old City on right in grey. Green = liberated, white = IS control, blue = Tigris River (Ninewa Media Center)

The Iraqi police were still attempting to seize the Grand Mosque in the Old City district of west Mosul. They were fighting in the Farouq neighborhood of the district. At the same time, the Islamic State counterattacked and forced them out of the Kornish Street area. The police spent the day attempting to drive off the insurgents. The Iraqi police only recently restarted their effort in the Old City after a month long pause. Their progress has still been extremely slow due to the tough defenses of the Islamic State and the dense layout, which has reduced most of the fighting to house to house, room to room.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 181-182, Apr 15-16, 2017


The Golden Division was said to be finally assaulting the Old City, but that claimw as unclear. The unit was fighting in the Tanak neighborhood, which was declared freed on April 13, and in Thawra. There was also a report that the unit was pushing on the Fifth Bridge across the Tigris. The problem with that is the Golden Division is in the center and west of Mosul, and the Fifth Bridge is all the way on the other side of the city to the east. Also Tanak and Thawra have been fought over since the end of March, so the division has not entered any new areas yet. At the same time Iraqi propaganda often exaggerates progress so these may be new areas the unit was fighting over.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


Security In Iraq, April 1-7, 2017


The on going Battle for Mosul continued to drive violence across Iraq in April 2017. In the rest of the country attacks have been going steadily down for the last few months, especially in places like Baghdad, which has seen the fewest incidents and casualties in years.

There were 169 incidents in Iraq from April 1-7 reported in the press. That was the most since 171 from March 8-14. There were 88 incidents in Ninewa, followed by 32 in Baghdad, 17 in Diyala, 9 in Salahaddin, 9 in Anbar, 7 in Kirkuk, 3 in Basra, 3 in Babil, and 1 in Najaf.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 180, Apr 14, 2017


Map comparing WMosul April 4 (top) to April 14, 2017 (bottom). The police have made no movement for a month in the Old City (grey area) to the right. The Golden Division on the other hand has moved up into the center of the city. The 9th Division and Hashd also just took the towns leading to the entrance to Mosul from the northwest. Green = liberated, white = IS controlled, blue = Tigris river (Ninewa Media Center)

ISF using jamming devices against IS UAVs Mosul (Baghdad Post)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 179, Apr 13, 2017


Dots represent destroyed sites in Mosul observed by the UN. Different colors represent different types of structures such as red for commercial, yellow for housing. (UN Human Settlements Program)

The big news of the day on the military front was that the 9th Division and Hashd almost reached west Mosul. They took five towns just on the outskirts of the city. These forces have been caught up clearing the Badush district to the west for the last two months, cutting off escape routes for the Islamic State. It is assumed that they will eventually assault the city itself and open a new front in the northwest.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 178, Apr 12, 2017


The Golden Division remains the most active unit in west Mosul. They were still fighting in Abar and Tank in the center of the front. The police restarted their assault upon the Old City and received reinforcements from the Interior Ministry. The attack on the Old City stalled several weeks ago leading to a change in strategy with the Golden Division pushing up the middle to try to surround the district, while the police held down the Islamic State. The Golden Division have not joined the fight in the Old City yet so it is unclear whether that operation has really renewed or not.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 177, Apr 11, 2017


The grey area in the east along the Tigris River is the Old City, where the police have been holding down the Islamic State. The bulges in the middle of the front are where the Golden Division has been making its advances in recent weeks. Green = Liberated, White = IS Control, Blue = Tigris River. (Nineveh Media Center)

Both the police and Counter Terrorism Forces (CTF) – Golden Division were at work in west Mosul. On April 10 the Golden Division was fighting in Tanak, Abar, Aruba, and Matahen. That last neighborhood was declared freed the day before. On April 11, the unit was said to be clearing Matahen, Yarmouk and Maghreb. Maghreb was liberated on April 5, and Yarmouk on April 10. These are all areas in the center and western sections of the city, where the CTF have been making steady advances. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division on the other hand, have claimed they were pushing towards the Grand Mosque in the Old City section in the east each day, but in reality they were not making any serious movement. This was continuously denied over the last few weeks, but was finally admitted in an announcement that they re-started their attack upon the Old City. The Federal Police assaulted three strongpoints of the Islamic State near the Grand Mosque. IS was said to be retreating from the district, and forcing civilians to go with them as human shields. The operation against the Old City quickly ground to a halt due to the dense layout, narrow streets, and tough Islamic State defenses. That forced a re-think of tactics and strategy. Reports of heavy civilian casualties caused more delays as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 176, Apr 10, 2017


There was little activity in west Mosul again as the Iraqi forces (ISF) were preparing a new offensive against the Old City district along the Tigris River. The Yarmouk and Sakak neighborhoods were officially declared freed by the Golden Division. The unit took the first half of Yarmouk on April 3 and then the second half on April 6. Despite the announcement there was heavy fighting in both areas. The Golden Division have moved up into the western and central sections of the city, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division have held down Islamic State units in the Old City. That area is to be surrounded and then attacked. This operation is behind schedule however due to heavy civilian casualties.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 174-175, Apr 8-9, 2017


Palm Sunday services held for first time in three years in church in Qaraqosh, Ninewa, which was burned by Islamic State (Reuters)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) are only carrying out minimal operations in west Mosul in preparation for an impending big push to seize the Old City district. On April 8 the Federal Police claimed it achieved a breakthrough in the Zinjali neighborhood in the Old City. The police said this cut off some Islamic State supply routes to the area. The next day Federal Police commander General Shakir Jawadat stated that 60% of the defenses around the Grand Mosque in the Old City were destroyed. Iraqi propaganda is anything but consistent since Golden Division General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi was quoted in the press a week before that all the defenses were breached. Whatever the percentage is the Iraqi police have been inching towards the mosque for weeks now. Finally the Golden Division seized the Matahen neighborhood in central west Mosul. That unit has been moving up the western and central section of the city to try to encircle the Old City, which is now surrounded on two sides by the ISF with a third running along the Tigris River. The final push into this area should be coming soon. According to Al Mada the operation was supposed to have already started, but was delayed due to heavy civilian casualties.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


I was mentioned by Ben Watson and Kevin Baron in “Trump leans on China, North Korea; Dunford takes Kushner to Iraq; Egypt at the WH; #SAS2017 livestream; Q&A on Space War; And a bit more” for Defense One. I was cited in "A house divided, Political relations and coalition-building between Iraq's Shi'a" by Erwin van Veen, Nick Grinstead, Floor El Kamouni-Janssen for the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, and in "Trump's strike on Syria: A convenient distraction" by Ibrahim al-Marashi for Al Jazeera. My interview with Charlie Winter on how the Islamic State is dealing with its defeat in Mosul was reprinted by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

6,732 Dead and Wounded In Iraq In March 2017


6,732 people died or were wounded in Iraq in March 2017. That compared to 4,290 casualties in February. It was the highest figure since 13,184 dead and injured were reported in December 2016. The cause of the huge increase was the fighting in Mosul. In the middle of February the government re-started its campaign by assaulting the western half of the city. The dense layout, the use of human shields by the Islamic State and its indiscriminate attack upon civilians, and an increase in air strikes, mortars and artillery by the Coalition and Iraqi forces have all contributed to the rising number of fatalities and injured. At the same time, because the government is not reporting casualties and there is only limited access to the front in Mosul the recorded numbers should be considered a minimum.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 172-173, Apr 6-7, 2017


Most of the Iraqi advances in Mosul have been in the west such as Yarmouk (far left), which was just captured by the Golden Division (Institute for the Study of War)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) have been preparing for a new offensive in west Mosul. That has resulted in a relative pause in operations. On April 6 the Golden Division did take Yarmouk 2 in the western side of the city. Otherwise the ISF were preparing to storm the Old City in the east along the Tigris River. General Najim Abdullah al-Jabouri of the Ninewa Operations Command said that the attack upon the Old City would rely less on airstrikes due to civilian casualties.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Next Phase Against The Islamic State Cutting Its Finances, Interview With RAND’s Patrick Johnston


The Islamic State is on its way to being defeated in the Battle of Mosul. Afterward it is likely to lose its remaining territory in Iraq. It is already transitioning back to an insurgency however. To finally stamp out the group its funding needs to be cut off. That can’t be done on the battlefield however, but through intelligence and law enforcement. Recently the RAND Corporation published a report on the group’s finances entitled “Financial Futures of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” To talk about the next step against the Islamic State is one of the paper’s authors Patrick Johnston. He can be followed on Twitter @JOHNSTON.

1. The Islamic State still holds oil fields in Syria, but has lost control of all of the ones it had in Iraq. What will the organization turn to earn money and fund itself in Iraq?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 170-171, Apr 4-5, 2017


Federal Police fighting in Old City, West Mosul (Reuters)

The Iraqi Air Force once again dropped flyers over Mosul telling the citizens to stay in their homes. In the past such actions have preceded a new offensive by the Iraqi forces (ISF). One is about overdue as the police have made no real advances in the Old City for several weeks now.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Plight Of Civilians In The Battle For Mosul, Interview With Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera


As the battle for Mosul enters its sixth month there are growing concerns about the damage and casualties it is causing. The Jadida incident where a Coalition air strike was blamed for over two hundred civilian deaths highlighted the rising costs incurred from the fighting. To help describe the situation is Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera who has been interviewing people in Mosul and Ninewa during the campaign. She can be followed on Twitter @DRovera.

1. I interviewed some reporters who were in east Mosul at the end of 2016 when the Iraqi forces first entered the city. They said that there were some buildings that had been destroyed, but most of the city seemed in tact. How does west Mosul compare to east Mosul in terms of damage from the fighting?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 169, Apr 3, 2017


Most of the fighting has been in the western section of the front (red circle) by the Golden Division. Green = liberated. Red = frontline. White = Islamic State control (Iraqi Day)

There has been no real advances in the Old City along the Tigris River in west Mosul for several weeks now as can be seen by comparing these two maps from March 27 vs April 3, 2017. Green = liberated. Red  = frontline. Gold = Islamic State control (Iraqi Day)

After a couple slow days the Iraqi forces (ISF) announced some new advances. The Yarmouk and Nahrawan neighborhoods were freed in the west and there was fighting in Matahen and Aghawat. The Golden Division has moved up into the center and western section of west Mosul, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were still concerned with the Old City district. The police were opening up routes for civilians to leave that area to try to clear the battlefield before launching a new operation there. As usual, bad weather has been holding up air support, and in turn the Iraqi ground forces.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 168, Apr 2, 2017


The last few days have been slow for the Iraqi forces (ISF) inside west Mosul. The Golden Division recaptured the Rajim al-Hadid neighborhood that the Islamic State seized the day before. That was the first time the insurgents were able to take any territory in the Mosul battle. There was still fighting in Yarmouk in the west as well. The Golden Division claimed it had freed the area on March 22. Otherwise there were no advances reported. The ISF is now in control of roughly 60% of the western section of the city.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


I was cited in “The Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraq, Subnationalism and the State” by Dylan O’Driscoll and Dave van Zoonen for the Middle East Research Institute.

Mosul campaign Day 166-167 March 31-April 1, 2017



The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division are holding down Islamic State forces in the Old City along the Tigris River while the Golden Division are moving up its flank and advancing in the west fighting in areas such as Yarmouk (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

Federal Police fighting in the Old City district of west Mosul (Reuters)

For the first time the Islamic State was able to seize some territory from the Iraqi forces (ISF) inside Mosul. The insurgents took the Rajim al-Hadid neighborhood that was just freed on March 22. The area was being held by a tribal Hashd unit probably made up of locals. The Golden Division was still fighting in Yarmouk as well away and to the west of the Old City. A member of the Ninewa security committee said that there have been no real advances by the police for the last 15 days in the Old City. That stalemate has led to a revision of the battle plan. While the police hold down Islamic State fighters in the Old City, the Golden Division is moving up the flank to surround the district, while taking areas in the western section of the city.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 22-28, 2017



Violence stayed at relatively the same level between the third and fourth week of March. There were 152 reported incidents in Iraq from March 22-28. That was roughly the same as the previous week when there were 142.

Again, Ninewa led the country in violence with 100 incidents due to the Battle for Mosul. After that there were 21 in Baghdad, 10 in Diyala, 8 in Anbar, 6 in Kirkuk, 5 in Salahaddin, and 1 each in Babil and Najaf.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 164-65, March 29-30, 2017


Displaced people streaming out of west Mosul (Reuters)

The police continued their frontal assault to take the Grand Mosque in the Old City of west Mosul, but the real story was the Golden Division moving up the flank of the district. On March 29 the Federal Police freed Malab while there was fighting by the police and Golden Division in Yarmouk, Zinjali and Tanak. The next day the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division took Alban, while Qadhib al-Ban was officially declared liberated. The Golden Division only reported taking an intersection and some buildings, showing that it was a slow day. The goal is for the police to tie down the Islamic State in the Old City, while the Golden Division surrounds the district. This is part of a revised battle plan after the ISF got bogged down trying to take the district. Now the goal is to attack the insurgents on multiple fronts.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 15-21, 2017


The number of security incidents dipped in Iraq during the third week of March 2017, but casualties remained relatively the same from the week before.

There were 142 incidents reported in the press from March 15-21, down from 170 the week before, and 179 the first week of March. The dip in violence might be a result of the stalemate in the battle for Mosul. The government forces have been stuck in the Old City section of west Mosul for the last few weeks leading to fewer clashes with the Islamic State. The third week of February when the assault upon west Mosul began there were 75 incidents in Ninewa. February 22-28 that went up to 102 incidents, then 108 March 1-7, 104 March 8-14, before going down to 87 Mach 15-21.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 163, March 28, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) are implementing their new plan for Mosul. The Golden Division continued their march along the western flank of the Old City. They attacked the Yarmouk and Maghreb neighborhoods. The unit claimed it freed the former last week. The Federal Police on the other hand are continuing their frontal attack upon the district moving into Midan, Suq al-Shaareen, Qadhib al-Ban, and a railway station. The police were making little headway into the area due to its dense layout and strong defenses by the Islamic State. That led to a revision of the battle plan, which now consists of the police holding down the insurgents, while the Golden Division attacks them from the flank. This highlights the development of the ISF’s ability to strategize and execute their plans. These were things they were having problems with when the Mosul campaign initially started, but they have since adapted.

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.

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.

Mosul Campaign Day 187, Apr 21, 2017

The Iraqi forces were involved in heavy fighting across west Mosul. There were clashes between the Islamic State and Golden Division in t...