The Iraqi joint forces were much more active during the sixth day of the Mosul operation. Several more towns were freed, some of which were declared liberated before however. Iraq’s prime minister rejected Turkey’s participation in the campaign once again. On the insurgents’ side the Islamic State was accused of mass executions and forced displacement, and may be destroying parts of Mosul in anticipation of losing it.
More information was released by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on its work on October 21. Eight towns were reported freed that day to the south and east of Mosul.
The next day another 14 towns were liberated and another one attacked by the ISF. Two of those, Qaraqosh and Bartella were said to have been cleared earlier, but that appeared to be government propaganda. There were actually freed on October 22. Several neighborhoods of Tal Kief were entered as well by the Iraqi army.
The Kurds did not report any gains in their thrusts from the north and east during the day but several Peshmerga were quoted in an article in The National saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had made a deal with Baghdad to keep all the territory that it takes during the Mosul campaign. This will be a hotly debated issue after Mosul is liberated as Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has mentioned before that he does not agree with Kurdistan holding onto these areas. Facts on the ground have largely determined who controls the disputed areas since 2003, and the Kurds have nearly all of the areas they claim. This issue and others will have to be dealt with after the battle is finished. Some argued that there should have been some kind of grand deal beforehand, but that could have easily been broken by military action. More importantly crafting such an agreement might have put off the Mosul campaign for weeks if not months.
Only 2 casualties were reported during the day. A reporter was killed by an IS sniper and a Hashd group claimed that one of its fighters died as well. The low figure was due to official censorship, which is again leading to the suppression of losses. Those are likely heavy as IS has stiffened its defenses in the last few days. Western reporters for example have noted several car bombs that have hit the joint forces, but no figures were given on the dead and wounded. The actual cost of the fight against the Islamic State has been another casualty of the war.
The U.S. led Coalition continued to support the Iraqi join forces. Americans repaired part of the Qayara air base south of Mosul. That could lead to Iraqi planes and helicopters being based there for quick strikes on IS positions. More Coalition members were also reported as being embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as advisers and to call in air strikes. The U.S. and British forces have been mentioned and seen before by reporters. More than 100 U.S. personnel are said to be with the joint forces on the front lines. Now Australian and New Zealand Special Forces have been added to that list, although the latter officially denied it.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Iraq. He met with Premier Abadi and passed along Turkey’s offer to help with the Mosul operation. Abadi turned it down. Ankara has repeatedly said that it would play a role in the campaign whether Baghdad liked it or not garnering huge anger, especially amongst the Shiite ruling parties and Hashd groups. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inflamed the situation even more right on the eve of the battle by insulting Iraq’s leader saying he was not on the same level. Washington has been trying to mediate between the two countries, but Ankara is attempting to impose its hegemony over Mosul and Ninewa in general, and Baghdad is not having it. Erdogan’s comments ensured that the Iraqi government would never accept any offer from him.
In IS controlled areas it is still attempting to hold onto power. It released a video of the hanging of two Peshmerga off of a bridge in Mosul. It also blew up a prominent hotel and the municipalities building. This is more evidence that IS may be trying to destroy sections of the city before it is forced out. In one part of the city IS used mosque loudspeakers to claim that it had seized most of Kirkuk city and defeated the Iraqi forces in Bartella, both of which were false. In that same section is was forcing shops to re-open. Many businesses have closed up in anticipation of the assault. There were reports that the group had pushed around 200 people from several villages south of Mosul into the city itself probably for use as human shields. It also allegedly slaughtered several hundred people as it fled villages in the face of advances by the Iraqi forces. In the south it also set fire to a sulfur plant that led to toxic clouds floating to populated areas killing two and sickening up to 1,000.
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Bas News, "Assyrian Town Bartella Fully Liberated from IS," 10/22/16
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