Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Seventeen, Nov 2, 2016

The Iraqi army, Federal Police and Hashd were moving forward on November 2, while the Golden Division had a temporary pause for other forces to catch up with it. The Golden Division entered the outer eastern outskirts of Mosul, but then halted as it was far ahead of other units. Being so far ahead opens up the forces to counterattacks from the flanks and rear by Islamic State fighters. Two of those eastern areas Gogjali and Karama were declared freed by the Golden Division, but fighting was still going on in the former and the latter was just entered. In the south the army and Federal Police seized 15 villages, in the north one more, while the Hashd took 8 in the southwest, although one was said to have been liberated a few days before. 15 Hashd were killed and 46 wounded during the fighting. Only occasional press reports have any coverage of casualties.

Some Iraqi units have made better progress than others. So far the Golden Division has advanced the farthest having reached the industrial districts of eastern Mosul. The army’s 9th Division is moving in two columns in the south with one 3.5 km from Mosul and the other caught up in IS defenses 25 km away. The latter is now giving up that line of advance and shifting to the east to joint the Golden Division. The Federal Police are 15 km to the south, the 15th Division 30 km to the south, and the 16th Division and ex-Governor Nujafi’s Hashd al-Watani 9 km to the north. The Kurds have stopped their operations and are digging in 4-10 km northeast of the city. The joint forces are now focusing upon three main corridors towards Mosul from the west, east and northeast.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed two commanders in the Golden Division who talked about not repeating the mistakes made by the Iraqi forces before in Ninewa and the opportunity this campaign provided to win back locals. General Abbas Jubouri told the Journal that his unit needed to make sure they did not act like the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) performed before in the Mosul area, referring to how they alienated the populace. He went on to note that led to people feeling marginalized, which opened the door for the Islamic State to gain support. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi added that now the population wanted the army to free them. This highlighted a point made by Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in a paper he wrote about past attempts to secure Mosul that this campaign offers the first opportunity since 2003 for the ISF and central government to win over the locals and be seen as liberators. Unfortunately the first signs of abuse have arisen.

Amnesty International received stories that a Sabawai tribal armed group, Hashd al-Ashairi carried out abuses in three towns south of Mosul. Amnesty talked with local officials and eyewitnesses that said the tribal fighters entered Makuk, Tal al-Shaeir and Douizat al-Sufla before the Iraqi security forces arrived and abused people they accused of being Islamic State members and sympathizers. That included beatings, electrocutions, tying people to vehicles and being driven around, as well as being put into cages. Amnesty believed these actions were not only motivated by revenge for IS crimes, but tribal feuds as well. Much is put on the threat of Shiite forces abusing Sunnis in security campaigns, but there are also tribal groups like this that show Sunni-Sunnis splits, and how deeply the Iraqi nation has been wounded by the war against the Islamic State, and how difficult it will be to heal them.

Another Hashd group talked about expanding the war into Syria after Mosul is liberated. The secretary general of Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada told the press that they would fight IS in Syria after Tal Afar was taken. He joined several others who have made similar comments in the last few days. There are already thousands of Iraqis fighting in militias sponsored by Iran to support Assad’s government, but these most recent words seem to imply that Iraqi units could formally cross the border into Syria from Ninewa after this campaign is done. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has said nothing on this matter, although his National Security Adviser supported the idea.

In Mosul itself there were more reports that small resistance groups were attacking IS members. 90 former ISF members were also said to have been arrested out of fear that they were providing intelligence to the government and placed in a school converted into a military outpost.

Finally, Premier Abadi warned Turkey that if they entered Iraq to take part in the Mosul operation they would pay for it. Turkey’s Foreign Minister responded by saying that Iraq had no better friend then Ankara. This was just the latest in the war of words between the two countries, and came after Turkey deployed extra forces to the border near Tal Afar threatening the Hashd if they took the town.


Amnesty International, “Iraq: Tribal militia tortured detainees in revenge attacks during Mosul offensive,” 11/2/16

BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi troops secure foothold in eastern outskirts,” 11/2/16

Buratha News, "Recent development in the field, until 21:45 pm Wednesday 02 11 2016," 11/2/16

Al Forat, "Announcement of freeing 14 villages and reach the outskirts of Hamam al-Alil," 11/2/16

El-Ghobashy, Tamer and Nabhan, Ali, “Iraqi Forces Show New Face in Mosul,” Wall Street Journal, 1/2/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Nov. 2, 2016,” 11/2/16

Knights, Michael, “How to Secure Mosul, Lessons from 2008-2014,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 2016
- “IS conflict: Battle for Mosul on schedule, but not exactly to plan,” BBC, 11/2/16

Al Mada, "Freed village in Bashiqa and raised the Iraqi flag over the buildings," 11/2/16

Al Masalah, "Badr announces the liberation of four villages in Nineveh," 11/2/16

Mostafa, Mohamed, “ISIS inside Syria after liberating Tel Afar,” Iraqi News, 11/2/16

Rudaw, “After warning by Iraqi PM, Turkey says Baghdad has no greater friend than Ankara,” 11/2/16

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