More and more neighborhoods are falling to government forces. The Federal Police took Salam for the third time and Sahiron in the southeast. The Golden Division freed Nisan 7 in the northeast, and began its assault upon Mosul University. Elements of that unit liberated Siha in the east for the third time, Maliya in the south along the Tigris River and Sadiq for the second time along with the Rapid Reaction Forces in the south. Sumer, which was declared liberated twice this month, was actually still contested, but the Federal Police said they were now in control of 75% of it. The Iraqi forces were still trying to seize Palestine, Yarmja and Hadbaa, all of which have been called freed before. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) has a bad habit or declaring neighborhoods liberated before they are, sometimes before they’re even reached. Despite that problem a majority of east Mosul is now under Iraqi control.
In an important development the army and Golden Division finally met up in northeast Mosul. That happened in the Hadbaa district when units from the 16th Division greeted members of the Counter Terrorism forces.
The quick advances in recent days has led more and more Iraqi officials to predict the fall of east Mosul. National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayad, deputy commander of the 9th Division General Walid al-Khalifa, and the Joint Operations Command all told the press that they expected the Left Coast of the city to be freed in a matter of days. The operation is still behind the bold predictions of Prime Minister Haider Abadi who believed the entire city could be taken by the end of 2016, but the recent victories are seizing far more territory compared to the previous two months.
The signs are there that the Islamic State’s defenses are breaking. The head of the Joint Operations Command General Talib Shaghait, 9th Division deputy commander General Khalifa, and U.S. Colonel Brett Sylvia all noted that the number of car bombs being launched is way down. Sylvia said that at the start of the Mosul campaign there were an average of 10 vehicle bombs per day with half of them causing casualties. Now there was just 1-2 each day and only one in six hitting its target. You wouldn’t know there was such a dramatic drop in such attacks if you just read the press releases by the ISF. In the first week of January for example they claimed 16 car bombs per day. That was just more exaggerating however.
There were other examples of IS’s problems. More fighters were withdrawing from the Left to Right Bank. Those were mostly Iraqis as the foreigners were staying. Some locals told New Sabah that insurgents were asking people for provisions.
Finally, the ISF has adapted to the urban fighting as well. Before Iraqi units were moving in large vehicle columns through the city. Those were slow and easy to hit. Now the forces are moving by foot. They are also using spikes and cratering roads along with older tactics like employing bulldozers to create berms all meant to slow down and impede vehicle bombs. Finally, there are four different forces in Mosul, the Golden Division, the army, the Federal Police, and the Rapid Reaction forces. At first, none of these units were coordinating. Now the U.S. has pushed them towards greater cooperation with weekly meetings of commanders. Finally, the multi-front push on Mosul was abandoned for concentrating just on the eastern side.
To the west in the Tal Afar district the Hashd are ramping up to re-start operations. Reinforcements are arriving for a sixth stage. What that entails has not been divulged yet, but it will likely mean taking more small towns, as the Hashd cannot enter Tal Afar itself. The army and police are supposed to do that, which means the Hashd are left to clearing the district.
In Qayara south of Mosul there are still oil wells burning. These were set alight by the Islamic State as it abandoned the area back in October. The Oil Ministry has been hard at work trying to douse the flames, but there are still many ablaze causing a huge amount of environmental damage. So far the ministry has put out 17 wells.
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