As the Iraqi forces prepare to assault western Mosul the issue of whether they have enough units to hold the eastern half of the city has been brought up. Mustafa Habib, a reporter for Niqash recently wrote about this topic. Here is an interview with Habib about his thoughts on securing east Mosul. He can be followed on Twitter @Mustafa_Habib33.
1. What Iraqi units are currently in east Mosul, what areas are they in, and do they have enough to hold it, while attacking the west?
There are now almost 20-25 thousand Iraqi fighters, three brigades of the anti-terrorism forces (deployed in city center and overseeing the security file in all eastern Mosul), an Iraqi army division in the northern neighborhoods with hundreds of of Nineveh guard forces, two brigades of Federal Police with about 2000 local policemen from Mosul residents with a brigade of quick response forces with hundreds of fighters from the popular crowd (Shiite Shabak) in east neighborhoods.
The government will rely on these forces to liberate western Mosul, and there will not be enough to hold the east while attacking west.
2. How many police were in Mosul before it fell to the Islamic State in 2014?
Before the fall of Mosul, there were about 60-70 thousand men. There were 9 brigades from the federal police and army, and 6 brigades of the local police. These forces were in all Ninewa province, 60 percent of these forces were in Mosul.
3. Prime Minister Haider Abadi said that no Hashd would be allowed into Mosul. There have already been two exceptions to that. A Shabak brigade and ex-Governor Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani/Ninewa Guards were both given holding duties in east Mosul. What came of those two units, and is there any talk of bringing in anymore Hashd to help secure the city?
Holding east Mosul has been a problem forcing the government to involve the popular crowd in the city after the anti-terror forces lost half its power. There is no intention of the government to bring in more of the popular crowd.
4. What are the Iraqi forces and government talking about to resolve this dilemma?
The government has developed a plan that includes the federal police staying in the east with the local police and the Iraqi army to hold the ground. The attack on the western Mosul will be by the anti-terrorism forces through a river crossing with 3000 fighters of the Al-Abbas fighting division (who are loyal to Ayatollah Sistani) that began getting sophisticated weapons from the international coalition. Its leaders held meetings with international coalition leaders to coordination between them.
The reality is the government is still wary of starting the attack on western Mosul. I think it might be delayed for weeks. Delays will benefit ISIS certainly.