Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 99, Jan 23, 2017


The big news of the day was the Defense Ministry claiming that all of east Mosul was liberated when it wasn’t. The Ministry made the announcement at the start of the day, but was quickly corrected by the forces on the ground, and the Joint Operations Command. General Yahya Rasool pointed out that the Rashidiya district in the northeast was still being attacked by the 9th and 16 Divisions, while the Joint Operations Command told the media that it was the only body authorized to declare areas of the city under government control. The Defense Ministry had to acknowledged that it was mistaken. This happens all the time in Iraq as over anxious officers or competition between units and commands lead to premature declarations. That was why many of the neighborhoods in Mosul were said to have been taken multiple times. The Iraqi government has been pushing a victory narrative for the last three years, and it often times gets out of hand.

The Islamic State was continuing with its sabotage campaign and preparing its defenses. It blew up a power substation in Rashidiya that provided not only electricity for homes but also for a water treatment facility. In the west it was erecting barriers on the sections of the destroyed bridges across the Tigris in case the Iraqi Forces (ISF) attempted to use them. It was also occupying homes along the river to use them as firing positions. At the same time a Ninewa provincial councilman told the press that IS leaders were fleeing towards Syria. No one can tell how the fight for west Mosul will go. IS defenses collapsed in the east, but there’s no telling whether that will carry over to the east.

IS has used religious and public facilities as bases for years now. Mosul was no different as the ISF found that the Grand Mosque was used to build IEDs and car bombs, as well as fly drones out of. Earlier the Salam Hospital, which initially was believed to still be a health facility, turned out to be a major command and control center for the insurgents.

On the positive side life continued to return to sections of Mosul. 70 public schools and one private one re-opened. The government was trying to restart the food ration system within the city, and clean water was restored to three neighborhoods. Students at Mosul University showed up for a small demonstration demanding that their school be rebuilt. IS burned and destroyed large sections of the campus leaving it a wreck. Approximately 4,000 displaced returned to the city according to the Displacement Ministry. Almost as soon as an area is taken people start to come out into the streets, clean up, or head back to their homes. It’s good to see that the authorities are starting to move into the city as well. That will all help to win the loyalty of the populace to the Ninewa council and Baghdad, which was a major goal.

The ISF is putting together its plans for west Mosul. Commanders are talking about a quick turn around from the liberation of the east to assaulting the west. Engineers are building pontoon bridges provided by the United States to cross the Tigris. Iraqi planes started air strikes on the west as well. There is still going to be a pause as the various units need to re-supply and re-fit before they take on the second half of the city, but Iraqis want that to happen as rapidly as possible.

National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayad said that there was nothing stopping the Hashd from taking Tal Afar to the west of Mosul. Turkey continuously complained about that happening when the operation started claiming that the units would commit abuses. Baghdad and Ankara reportedly signed an agreement to keep the Hashd out as a result. The ISF however are making no move to take the town as the original battle plan collapsed. A decision may have been made to just allow the Hashd to attack the village as a result, but that’s yet to be seen.

A story is circulating that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was wounded in an Iraqi air strike in the Baaj district by Tal Afar. This is the third time however that Iraqi sources have aired this story, and there is no way to confirm it.

The United States has stepped up its support for the ISF in the second phase of the Mosul campaign, but they are not the only member of the coalition. France 24 had another piece on French Special Forces operating inside Mosul. They are probably playing the same role as their American counterparts providing intelligence, air strikes, targeting for artillery, and advice to the Iraqi military.

The mayor of Sinjar Mahma Khalil called on the Iraqi forces to rescue Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State and taken to Mosul. He had information that up to 1,200 Yazidis were within the city and wanted the military to conduct targeted raids to free them. The Yazidi population was devastated when the Islamic State swept into their villages in 2014. The women and girls were separated from their families and sold off as slaves or forced into marriage with IS fighters. Many of them are still probably in Mosul, with others taken to Syria.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi announced an investigation would be launched into reports that the ISF and Hashd have kidnapped and abused civilians. There was also a video of three unarmed IS members being executed, which the United Nations demanded be looked into. Baghdad has launched dozens of these probes, but they are for public consumption only as nothing ever comes of them. Transparency is not a strength of the Iraqi government, and it does not want to do anything that might jeopardize morale and question its fight against the insurgents.

The Ninewa Plains were one of the historic homelands of Iraq’s Christian community. Much of it has been liberated recently, but the towns have mostly been destroyed. Al Jazeera talked with an Assyrian family that went back to Qaraqosh east of Mosul. It was devastated and there were still plenty of IEDs, leading the family to say that they were afraid to stay there. That’s the reason why many of these Christian villages remain uninhabited.

Finally, an Iraqi parliamentarian told New Sabah that former governor Atheel Nujafi and ex-Finance Minister Rafi Issawi wanted to convert Ninewa into a federal region after it is freed. MP Abdul Rahim al-Shammari claimed this plan had the backing of Turkey. Nujafi has little support left in the province, and is widely unpopular outside of it. An arrest warrant was even issued for his ties with Turkey back in October, but it was never acted upon. He is hoping that the Mosul operation will restore him to power, but he will have to compete with the current Ninewa government along with Prime Minister Abadi neither of which have any intention of bringing Nujafi back.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, “Nineveh Council’s member: Dozens of IS leaders flee toward Syria,” Iraqi News, 1/23/17

AIN, “Joint Operations: Continued liberation of left coast of Mosul,” 1/23/17

Baruch, Uzi, “ISIS leader ‘critically’ wounded in Iraq air strikes,” Arutz Sheva, 1/23/17

CBS News, “U.S.-backed forces brace for ISIS’ last stand in Iraq,” 1/23/17

Chmaytelli, Maher and Hameed, Saif, “Iraqi forces take complete control of east Mosul,” Reuters, 1/23/17

eKurd, “Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief – January 23, 2017,” 1/23/17

Al Forat, “Fayad: No objection to the entry of the popular crowd into Tal Afar,” 1/23/17

France 24, “Iraq: Embedded with French special forces in Mosul,” 1/23/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Jan. 23, 2017,” 1/23/17

Al Jazeera, “Iraq army denies taking east Mosul from ISIL,” 1/23/17

Kurdistan24, “VIDEO: Is turned Mosul’s Great Mosque into bomb, VBIED factory,” 1/22/17

Al Maalomah, ‘Freed the northern part of Rashidiya in the left bank of Mosul,” 1/23/17

Al Mada, “Judiciary issued an arrest warrant for Atheel Nujafi on charges of communicating with a foreign country,” 10/20/16

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraq PM orders investigation into abuses reported in Mosul battle,” Iraqi News, 1/23/17
- "Iraqi forces storm last Islamic State location in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 1/23/17
- “More than 4000 displaced families return to eastern Mosul Monday,” Iraqi News, 1/23/17
- “Northern Mosul district recapture from IS, makeshift bridges erected for west battles,” Iraqi News, 1/23/17

New Sabah, “Daesh destroyed infrastructure in Mosul,” 1/24/17
- “Defectors from Mutahidun: Najafi al-Issawi and repackaging the Sunni region project,” 1/23/17
- “Engineers proceed to erect bridges over the Tigris River in preparation for the start of freeing the right bank,” 1/23/17
- “Joint Operations: surprise plans to liberate Mosul,” 1/23/17

Al Sumaria, “Joint Operations Command Contradicts Defense Ministry: liberation of left coast of Mosul still on going,” 1/23/17

Thomas, Claire, “Iraqi Christians return to ISIL’s wreckage,” Al Jazeera, 1/23/17


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