The Islamic State continued to make defensive preparations in west Mosul and to carry out harassing attacks. In the middle of the night IS fighters launched a river assault on two neighborhoods in east Mosul. The army and Rapid Reaction forces turned them back. The insurgents were still forcing people out of their houses along the Tigris River to use them as fighting positions. Out in the Tal Afar district to the west the militants also attacked the Hashd in Tal Ikssiba. Iraqi and U.S. officials claim that IS is a broken force, but they are still putting up a fight for now.
The Iraqi forces (ISF) and local officials have been warning of Islamic State sleeper cells in east Mosul. The ISF has been searching homes, and trying to screen residents looking for IS members and sympathizers. Those warnings were realized on January 27 when two suicide car bombs went off in Rashidiya in the northeast. That was the last district of the city liberated. The explosions left 12 dead and 21 wounded. This will be a continuous threat since most of the population in the east stayed inside the city making it much harder to check them all.
That issue is made the more complicated by the fact that the government does not have enough personnel to secure the city. One official claimed Mosul needs roughly 15,000 police. Some have called for dismissed officers to be brought back, but Baghdad rejected that idea saying they want a new police force that has been trained by the U.S. led Coalition. The problem is those forces are not in the city or ready yet. That has led the army, Federal Police and Hashd al-Watani to fill that void. The last group for example is in the Hadbaa neighborhood in the northeast. This will be made worse when west Mosul is attacked and the army and Federal Police has to move out of the areas they are currently holding.
Another dilemma is what to do with suspected IS families. A member of the Ninewa council believes only a small percentage of the city falls under this category. Still, there is some talk of putting IS sympathizers in a camp. That would not only be a form of collective punishment, but would make the families perpetual outcasts. The proposal has been made in Anbar as well, so it has some standing with provincial governments.
As part of the next phase of the Mosul campaign the town of Tal Afar to the west is finally going to be attacked. Originally, this was supposed to be done by the army and police. The town was reached two months ago, but the ISF never made a move because they were too busy with Mosul. Now the Iraqi command has decided to task the Hashd with the job. This breaks an agreement Baghdad made with Turkey that the Hashd would not enter Tal Afar. Ankara vociferously protested that the Hashd should be kept out because they would abuse the population. Again, Mosul is taking all the ISF’s attention, and they do not have the forces to do Tal Afar at the same time, so this choice was made out of necessity. Turkey has yet to comment on the move.
Finally, the pro-Iran Hashd forces in west Mosul again threatened the Kurds. Asaib Ahl Al-Haq spokesman Jawad Talabawi said that if the Peshmerga did not withdrew from the areas that they took during the Mosul campaign as they promised Baghdad, than the Hashd would attack them. Talabawi claimed expelling the Kurds would be easier than the fight against the Islamic State. Tehran linked Hashd groups have had a running feud with the Kurds for years now, especially Kurdish President Massoud Barzani who they claim is grabbing territory, trying to divide Iraq, and is an ally of Turkey. This has led to occasional clashes and a constant war of words between the two.
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