January 26 was the second day of the pause in operations between taking east Mosul and attacking the west. That didn’t mean the Iraqi Forces (ISF) were out of action. The 9th Division announced it took Shreikhan. This is a town north of the city, which was first declared freed on January 24. Inside the city the Federal Police were clearing areas of explosives. The ISF were also looking for potential suicide bombers. U.S. Colonel John Dorrian warned of Islamic State sleeper cells hiding amongst the population that could later carry out attacks. Just last week a suicide bomber was gunned down approaching a checkpoint. With so many people staying within Mosul there was no way to screen them, which means there are likely IS members still there. The civilian population has been providing intelligence to the ISF to hunt down these members, but they will remain a threat.
There are not enough ISF available to secure the city while the combat forces move onto the other half of the city. That means the government has to call on others. A Shabak Hashd Brigade is within the city. So is ex-Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani, also known as the Ninewa Guards. They fought alongside the 16th Division in northeast Mosul, and now have been given some areas of the city to hold. This is a boost for Nujafi is who attempting to rebuild his base.
Retired General Alsodani Ismael wrote a piece on how the first half of the battle went down. The original plan was for the ISF to reach Mosul from the north, east, and south at the same time to spread out the Islamic State defenders. Instead the north and south stalled and the Golden Division reached the east very early on. Two of the army divisions in the north were brand new and had never seen combat before. Some of the commanders were unfit and inexperienced as well. He called for special operations raids, attacking on multiple fronts, and maneuvering in the next phase. The Golden Division were carrying out targeted attacks to eliminate IS commanders. The ISF is pushing a quick assault on the west, which probably involves a frontal assault across the Tigris. They could also move forces to the south and attack from there. The problems the Iraqi forces have in coordinating multiple fronts was exposed in the initial attack upon the city, and they may not have had time to improve. On the last point, the ISF was eventually able to attack across three broad fronts in east Mosul, which eventually connected together. Whether the units are up for a more dynamic plan is yet to be seen. Some Iraqi commanders have said the west Mosul fight will be completely different from the east.
The fate of Tal Afar in the west is becoming clearer. Early on in the campaign the Hashd reached the town, which was then to be taken by the ISF. This was in part due to strenuous objections by Turkey claiming that the Hashd would commit abuses. Recently National Security Advisers Falah Fayad said the Hashd could enter Tal Afar. General Abdul Yarallah added to that by saying that the Hashd supported by the Iraqi Air Force would liberate the town. That change may be due to a lack of army and police forces to take it, while assaulting Mosul at the same time. This will be a huge victory for the Hashd. They have talked about protecting the Shiite Turkmen in the area. The Iranian linked units would also like a presence there because it is a gateway to Syria. That would allow Tehran to move men and material straight across from Iran through Iraq to Syria. If that happened it would be highly ironic. Tal Afar used to be the route Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Assad government ferried in foreign fighters into Iraq to destabilize the country. Now Iran wants to use it to prop up the Syrian regime.
Over the last seven days the number of displaced (IDPs) in Ninewa has decreased, but it is still the highest amount since the Mosul campaign began. According to the International Organization for Migration, there were 159,252 IDPs registered with the government and aid groups on January 20. That went up to a high of 161,238 on January 23, but then after that went down each day to 159,006 on January 26. That compared to 116,292 displaced at the end of December. In 28 days there has been an increase in 42,714 IDPs. With the attack on the other half of Mosul coming up there will be another wave of people fleeing the fighting.
Each day more people are going back to their homes, and the rebuilding has begun. Since October 16 roughly 28,980 people have returned, and that figure is going up. Bas News was in Tel Keif, which was recently liberated. Almost 3,000 people were back, shops were re-opening, and the city council wanted to start projects to restore power and water. In Mosul, the Ninewa council held a meeting with the mayor to assess damage to the city. It opened offices in three neighborhoods to try to restore services and governance. Parliament’s human rights committee called on Prime Minister Haider Abadi to start paying salaries again to people in the liberated areas. Students from Mosul University are pushing for the campus to be repaired and re-opened. Slowly but surely the populace and authorities are trying to get Mosul and the surrounding area back up and running. This appears to be happening much faster than in other cities.
Finally, there were new casualty figures. Based upon reading over 40 papers a day and releases by aid agencies a total of 5,404 deaths have been counted and 16,983 wounded from October 17, 2016 to January 21, 2017. The vast majority of those are civilians with 4,741 killed and 14,842 injured. The Islamic State has been accused of executing 2,798 people. Coalition air strikes have been blamed for another 561 fatalities and 653 wounded. The fighting caused the rest.
Casualties From The Mosul Campaign 10/17/16-1/21/17
2 Kurd CT
1 US Sailor
1 Hasdh al-Watani
5 Hashd al-Watani
AIN, “A parliamentary committee calling for the government to pay salaries in the left bank of Mosul,” 1/26/17
Associated Press, "Iraqi troops push into IS-held villages north of Mosul," 1/26/17
Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field during the process of liberating Mosul until 12:10 pm Thursday 26 01 2017,” 1/26/17
General Ismael Alsodani, “The Operation to Eradicate ISIS in Mosul has Turned into a War of Attrition,” Delhi Defence Review, 1/26/17
Hemid, Leyla, “3,000 IDPs Return to Recently Liberated Town of Tel Kef, Mosul,” Bas News, 1/26/17
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #13 – Mosul Operations From 17 October To 26 January,” 1/26/17
Al Jazeera, “Mosul University after ISIL: Damaged but defiant,” 1/26/17
Kossov, Igor, “Iraqi troops scour eastern Mosul for Islamic State suicide bombers,” USA Today, 1/25/17
Al Maalomah, “Disclosure of military units during the freeing of right bank of Mosul,” 1/26/17
Al Mada, “Nineveh Council decides to open offices of mayor in left bank in Mosul,” 1/26/17
Al Masalah, “Defense: The process of freeing the right bank of Mosul will be launched very soon,” 1/26/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, "14 killed in eastern Mosul shelling, forces continue clearing last IS pockets," Iraqi News, 1/24/17
Robson, Seth, “US general: Liberation of Mosul involves ‘hardest’ urban combat in recent history,” Stars and Stripes 1/26/17
Shafaaq News, “Nineveh Guard support the security forces in the task of keeping the left coast of Mosul safe,” 1/26/17