The expected pause in operations after the liberation of East Mosul has now begun. The Joint Operations Command said that the battle for west Mosul would be completely different than the east. For one, the terrain is different. In east Mosul there were large government complexes like Mosul University and the provincial council complex where there were no civilians. East Mosul is much more compact and residential. The Islamic State has also taken thousands of civilians with them from the east to be used as human shields increasing the difficulty of the fight.
On the other side of the river, the Islamic State was making battle preparations. They are setting up along the bank of the Tigris. That included moving into a medical complex that had several high rises it could use for observation and sniper fire. The Iraqi forces (ISF) were trying to call in air and artillery strikes on any positions they spot. The militants were also launching harassing operations on the east. That included mortars and gunfire, but also occasional raids. The Rapid Reaction forces for example, noted on January 23, 20 IS fighters were spotted crossing the Tigris at night in some boats. The force was destroyed.
The Iraqis and U.S. continue to push the theme that the Islamic State is a defeated force. The Defense Ministry claimed that it lost roughly half of its fighters in east Mosul. There were an estimated 6,000 IS fighters within the city at the start of the operation, with 3,400 of them dying in the east. There is no way to verify these numbers and Baghdad has been known to greatly exaggerate the number of IS members it kills. U.S. General Joe Martin was quoted as saying that IS was “on the run.” It has fewer fighters, sophisticated weapons and resources, and there are reports of infighting within the organization. The battle for east Mosul went down very similar to Fallujah. In both cases, IS put up a stiff defense initially, but once that was penetrated it collapsed quickly. The same thing may play out in the west or the group could fight to the end given the importance of Mosul to the organization.
Nearly every week there are stories that IS members are fleeing to Syria. How could this be if the Hashd had cut off that route months ago? That’s because there are holes in that line. One is at a small town called Ein al-Hassan by the Sinjar mountains. The village is held by Kataib Hezbollah and the mountains by the Peshmerga, but the low ground between them is under IS control. It’s said that there is a tunnel system from the area to Syria, and the insurgents still move at night as well. There are probably other areas not patrolled or garrisoned where militants can get through as well.
Hashd spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi held a press conference to let people know that its forces would take part in the next phase of the Mosul battle. He said the Hashd would be in involved in west Mosul all the way to Tal Afar. The Ali Abbas division is scheduled to join the ISF inside the city, and the Hashd have been around Tal Afar for weeks now. Asadi’s statements appeared to be aimed at showing that the Hashd were still playing an important role in the campaign. In fact, they have been largely in a support role with less to do since the government forces have not taken Tal Afar. That could change as National Security Adviser Falah Fayad said there was nothing stopping the Hashd from entering the town. That could upset the rough relationship with Turkey, which has strenuously objected to any Hashd going into Tal Afar claiming they will carry out abuses.
A parliamentarian on the security committee complained about ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi and his Hashd al-Watani. He claimed that Nujafi was acting as if he was the commander of liberated areas in Mosul. The MP demanded that the government put a stop to that. The Hashd al-Watani worked with the 16th Division in freeing parts of northeast Mosul. Nujafi has pinned his hopes on returning to power on his involvement in the Mosul campaign. That has been very small, but he is likely to exploit it for all he can, which is why he is probably patrolling neighborhoods in the city.
Reuters had a story on the aftermath of the fighting in east Mosul. Many families could not bury their dead in cemeteries and are now trying to do so. The service talked with Abdul Rahman Riyadh who had 3 family members die along with 17 others in an air strike. Because of the combat going on around them the lost ones were buried in the backyard. Now that is over the dead are being dug up and put into the proper graveyards.
Now that all of east Mosul is liberated more families are going home, and the government is attempting to provide them with aid. Hundreds of people from the Khazir and Hasansham camps were leaving for the city. Local officials were trying to coordinate the exit and providing them with buses for the trip. People have no jobs to return to, so the government has agreed to pay 5 billion dinars in benefits to public workers that live in liberated areas. The government is the biggest employer in Iraq and main source of livelihood for families, so this will help support a large number of people.
Last, around 100 artifacts were discovered inside the house of an IS leader. These came from the Assyrian and early Islamic period. Much has been made of the militants’ destruction of historic sites like the Nabi Younis shrine inside Mosul, which they claimed were unIslamic. These acts were recorded and broadcast around the world in IS propaganda and picked up by the Iraqi and international press. Less well known was the insurgents’ other goal, which was to loot these areas of their possessions to be sold on the black market to bring in revenues. The items found in the house were likely for this illicit trade.
Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field during the process of liberating Mosul until 19:35 pm Wednesday 25 01 2017,” 1/25/17
Fache, Wilson, “As dust of war settles, east Mosul buries its dead anew,” Reuters, 1/25/17
- “Hundreds of families leave Iraq camps for Mosul return,” Agence France Presse, 1/25/17
Georgy, Michael, “Rowboats and missiles in war of attrition on Iraq front line,” Reuters, 1/25/17
Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Jan. 25, 2017,” 1/25/17
Al Maalomah, “Defense: Daesh lost more than half of its members on the left bank,” 1/25/17
Al Mada, “Spokesman for the crowd: We will participate in the liberation of the right bank of Mosul on more than one axis,” 1/25/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Islamic State execute five leaders for escaping eastern Mosul battles,” Iraqi News, 1/25/17
- “Islamic State fighters redeploy in west Mosul after Iraqi forces take east,” Iraqi News, 1/25/17
New Sabah, “Daesh abducted thousands of civilians from east Mosul to use them as human shields on right bank,” 1/25/17
- “Daesh admits defeat in east Mosul and announce it will be successful on the right bank,” 1/25/17
Rudaw, “Fight for west Mosul will be challenge but ISIS is ‘enemy on the run,’” 1/25/17
Shafaaq News, “MP warns of entrusting the task of security in Mosul to fighters led by a “nobody,”” 1/25/17
- “Pictures … found 100 artifacts in the home of a Daash leader in east Mosul,” 1/25/17
Westcott, Tom, “’We will never give up’: Iraqi troops battle to cut IS escape to Syria,” Middle East Eye, 1/24/17