Friday, March 31, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 164-65, March 29-30, 2017

Displaced people streaming out of west Mosul (Reuters)

The police continued their frontal assault to take the Grand Mosque in the Old City of west Mosul, but the real story was the Golden Division moving up the flank of the district. On March 29 the Federal Police freed Malab while there was fighting by the police and Golden Division in Yarmouk, Zinjali and Tanak. The next day the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division took Alban, while Qadhib al-Ban was officially declared liberated. The Golden Division only reported taking an intersection and some buildings, showing that it was a slow day. The goal is for the police to tie down the Islamic State in the Old City, while the Golden Division surrounds the district. This is part of a revised battle plan after the ISF got bogged down trying to take the district. Now the goal is to attack the insurgents on multiple fronts.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 15-21, 2017

The number of security incidents dipped in Iraq during the third week of March 2017, but casualties remained relatively the same from the week before.

There were 142 incidents reported in the press from March 15-21, down from 170 the week before, and 179 the first week of March. The dip in violence might be a result of the stalemate in the battle for Mosul. The government forces have been stuck in the Old City section of west Mosul for the last few weeks leading to fewer clashes with the Islamic State. The third week of February when the assault upon west Mosul began there were 75 incidents in Ninewa. February 22-28 that went up to 102 incidents, then 108 March 1-7, 104 March 8-14, before going down to 87 Mach 15-21.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 163, March 28, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) are implementing their new plan for Mosul. The Golden Division continued their march along the western flank of the Old City. They attacked the Yarmouk and Maghreb neighborhoods. The unit claimed it freed the former last week. The Federal Police on the other hand are continuing their frontal attack upon the district moving into Midan, Suq al-Shaareen, Qadhib al-Ban, and a railway station. The police were making little headway into the area due to its dense layout and strong defenses by the Islamic State. That led to a revision of the battle plan, which now consists of the police holding down the insurgents, while the Golden Division attacks them from the flank. This highlights the development of the ISF’s ability to strategize and execute their plans. These were things they were having problems with when the Mosul campaign initially started, but they have since adapted.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 162, March 27, 2017

Comparison of maps of Old City district of west Mosul March 19 vs March 27. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division are pushing from the south and have made no real advances over the last week. The Golden Division has advanced along the western section of the district however to attack the Islamic State from the flank.
Green is liberated, Red contested, Gold is Islamic State, Blue is the Tigris River (Iraqi Day)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) made contradictory remarks about their operations in Mosul. General Othman Ghanmi army chief of staff issued a statement that 50% of west Mosul was now under government control. ISF commanders have issued different figures and percentages on their progress based upon varying measurements. 50% is roughly right based upon the area of west Mosul. General Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah said there was no time limit on how long it would take to free the rest of the city. The government forces are fighting street to street, and the weather has been a hindrance as well. On the other hand the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command claimed that the battle for Mosul was done. The battle in fact has hit a stalemate forcing the Iraqi forces to change their battle plan. What is new is that the Golden Division has moved up the western side of the Old City district and to prepare to attack the Islamic State from its flank. Federal Police Commander Raed Jawadat stated that the Federal Police and the Rapid Reaction Division were making rapid progress in their assault upon the Old City. Some small advances were made. The two police forces are still aiming to taking the Grand Mosque in the district. The Golden Division’s General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi told the press that the Islamic State’s defenses had been destroyed around the mosque. That’s yet to be seen as the police are still roughly in the same area they have been for over a week now. Finally, according to a Federal Police officer reinforcements and 80 armored personnel carriers arrived as part of the change in tactics in the campaign. Those will not likely be used in the Old City where many of the streets are too narrow for vehicles to be used. They could also just be replacements to make up for losses.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 161, March 26, 2017

It’s gotten to the point that the Iraqi forces (ISF) are actively spreading disinformation about the Jadida air strike incident in west Mosul. The Joint Operations Command issued a statement saying on March 17 a unit from the Golden Division called in a Coalition air strike to take care of an Islamic State car bomb. After clearing the area they found that the Islamic State had herded civilians inside a booby-trapped house packed with explosives and detonated it. There were no signs of damage coming from the air in the building. A large car bomb also detonated next to the house. In total 61 bodies were taken out of the rubble. The problem with this story is that this took place in Resala, not Jadida. Since news of this incident came out the ISF has been denying that it happened. This is part of the government’s propaganda campaign where no casualties are reported. When deadly events like this do happen the authorities seek to discredit it, but it just shows that Baghdad is not a reliable source in these matters.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 160, March 25, 2017

News about Mosul was dominated by the Coalition bombing that left over 200 casualties. U.S. officials have admitted that the Coalition carried out air strikes in the Jadida neighborhood on March 17, but not to causing any losses. General Saadi of the Golden Division was quoted in the New York Times that the Iraqi forces called in a hit on three houses that the Islamic State were using for snipers, but they didn’t know there were civilians inside. He went on to claim that this was a trap set by IS to stop the battle. Another Iraqi general told the Washington Post that there was a car bomb outside the buildings and that contributed to the casualties, but civil defense officials who are responsible for digging through the debris for bodies and survivors said there was no sign of any vehicle bomb. According to Mosul municipal chief Abdul Sattar al-Habbo 240 bodies had been found so far. Bodies were still being pulled out of the debris by March 25, and restrictions on journalists were also put in place in the area. Both the Coalition and the Iraqi Defense Ministry have opened investigations into the matter. The Iraqi forces have been largely disingenuous over this incident. At first they denied anything happened, claiming the Islamic State was making up stories, and the media was not telling the truth, and they could be sued for doing so. Now they are saying that a car bomb might have contributed to the deaths, but that doesn’t appear to be true either. They are still trying to put all the blame on the insurgents. While the Iraqis might not have known there were people inside the three buildings, this was not part of an IS plot as the militants have used human shields since the start of the Mosul campaign in October, and have been forcing people to stay inside their fire positions for weeks now. Overall, this is part of a larger campaign by the government to deny bad news coming out of the war with IS especially if it involves civilians dying.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 159, March 24, 2017

The Mosul offensive has ground down into a stalemate. While areas are still regularly freed, they are relatively small, and the Iraqi forces (ISF) have not been able to make any serious advances into the Old City district along the Tigris River. Poor weather has limited air support and led the ISF to start and stop their operations again and again over the last few weeks. The dense layout of the area has meant the ISF are not able to use their vehicles many times. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a tough defense. They have an extensive tunnel system underneath the city. They have burrowed holes through walls to allow them to move house to house without venturing outside. They have blocked off streets with cars, burned fires to obscure visibility, deployed snipers upon rooftops, and constantly moved back and forth through areas to try to avoid enemy fire.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 158, March 23, 2017

Poor weather again hindered the Iraqi forces (ISF). The Federal Police halted their operations for the day because air support was limited by rain. The Golden Division seized the Yabessat neighborhood in the southwest section of the Old City. The ISF have still only penetrated the perimeter of the district, and it looks like there will be many hard days of fighting before they’re done and move on to the rest of the Mosul.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 157, March 22, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were still slowly but surely pushing into the Old City district of west Mosul. The Golden Division attacked the Yabsaat, Yarmouk, Rajim al-Hadid and Wai al-Ain areas, while the apartments in Yarmouk were freed. There was still fighting in Nablus and Resala, which were officially declared cleared yesterday. The Federal Police were also forced to retreat in Jadid due to Islamic State attacks. That neighborhood was freed on March 12. There were also heavy clashes in Bab al-Tob. So far the ISF have only penetrated into the perimeter of the Old City. Poor weather has limited air support. The dense layout of the sector has meant the Iraqis usually have to dismount and move street to street, house to house. IS is also putting up a stiff defense.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 155-56, March 20-21, 2017

Battle landscapes in west Mosul (Reuters)

Things are still going slow in trying to capture the Old City district in west Mosul. The Golden Division, coming form the southwest took the Resala and Nablus neighborhoods officially. Some streets were liberated as well, which is a perfect example of how things are progressing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 8-14, 2017

Violence has remained steady in Iraq since the Mosul campaign restarted in the middle of February. Security incidents remained at a low level across the country, with almost all the attacks going on in Ninewa for obvious reasons.

There were a total of 170 incidents from March 8-14, 2017. 104 of those were in Ninewa, followed by 31 in Baghdad, 10 in Anbar, 7 each in Salahaddin and Kirkuk, 5 in Diyala, 3 in Basra, and 1 each in Babil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniya.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 154, March 19, 2017

Federal Police fighting in Old City in west Mosul (Reuters)

Map of progress in Old City west Mosul. Green is liberated areas. Red is contested. Tan is under Islamic State control. Blue in right hand corner is the Tigris River. (Iraqi Day)

Fighting in the Old City went back and forth. The Golden Division attacking from the west took the Nablus area. There were renewed clashes in Bab al-Tob, which was just declared officially freed for the second time yesterday. Cramped streets, poor weather, tough defenses by the Islamic State have all slowed down progress in the city. The immediate goal remains taking the Grand Mosque where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014. After that is taken there will still be the majority of the Old City to be assaulted.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 153, March 18, 2017

National Security Service arrest an IS suspect in east Mosul (Telegraph)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were back on the offensive in Mosul despite the bad weather that has slowed progress lately. The Bab al-Tob neighborhood was officially declared cleared for the second time. The first time was on March 15, but then the next day there was bombing going on. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division also said they had taken the Arbiaa, Kur, and Tawafa, and attacked Bab al-Saray, all of which are in the Old City along the Tigris River. The immediate goal is to seize the Grand Mosque. Heavy rain has limited air support. The Old City is densely laid out with narrow streets, which has reduced much of the fighting to house-to-house battles. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a sturdy defense. These have all contributed to the slow going in recent days.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 152, March 17, 2017

Aftermath of a suicide bulldozer bomb in the Old City of Mosul (Daily Mail)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) renewed their offensive in the Old City in Mosul on March 17. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were still aiming for the Ground Mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014. The police were able to take several main streets and markets during the day. That symbolizes who much the campaign has slowed down. The dense layout of the Old City along with tough defenses by the insurgents has slowed things down considerably, mixed in with poor weather that has limited air support.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 151, March 16, 2017

The dense layout of the Old City in west Mosul along with poor weather has severely slowed down the progress of the Iraqi forces (ISF). The Iraqis are declaring specific buildings and streets freed such as Ninewa Hospital to document their advances. The ISF were still pushing on the Great Mosque, which was where Islamic State head Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced the caliphate in 2014. Yesterday, the Bab al-Tob neighborhood was officially declared freed, but on March 16 the Iraqi air forces was still bombing targets in the neighborhood to try to root out Islamic State snipers. Finally, the Iraqi forces tried to push into Nablus, but the fighting was so fierce that American spotters were called in to bring in Apache helicopters for close fire missions. Heavy rains in recent days have limited air support, which has slowed progress by the ground troops. The compact layout of the Old City has also made things difficult because many of the streets are too narrow for ISF vehicles to maneuver. Finally, despite Iraqi propaganda IS is still putting up fierce opposition. Altogether that has led the ISF to begin to adjust their plans to deal with the new environment.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 150, March 15, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued their slow advance through the Old City along the Tigris River. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division finally took the Iron Bridge, making it three out of the five spans across the Tigris River that are now under government control. The bridges were knocked out by Coalition air strikes so they are largely symbolic victories.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 149, March 14, 2017

Advances in west Mosul has gone through fits and spurts. On March 14 the Federal police seized the Mosul Train Station. The Iraqi forces (ISF) were also trying to take the Grand Mosque where the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate. The building has been in site of the ISF for the last few days, but they were repulsed after suffering heavy losses. The Iron Bridge was another target the police have targeted. The ISF were still fighting over the Bab al-Tob area of the Old City as well. A mix of rain, IS snipers, and the compact layout of the Old City have all contributed to the recent slowdown in the ISF’s progress.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 148, March 13, 2017

Rapid Reaction Division moving through the narrow streets of West Mosul (Reuters)

Fighting remained focused around the Old City section of west Mosul. Sanaa was attacked, while Naft was freed. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were trying to capture the entrance to the Iron Bridge that crosses the Tigris. Those police forces were also clearing the areas of Bab al-Tob there were taken yesterday; going house-to-house as there were still IS elements left there. Advances in Mosul have slowed down due to poor weather, but more importantly, the dense layout of the Old City area. To the west of the city two more towns were taken by the 16th Division, which just entered the fight two days ago. The Iraqi forces (ISF) have kept up a steady and even advance throughout most of the new campaign with good coordination between the police in the east and the Golden Division moving up the middle and east. This showed that the Iraqis have learned from the east Mosul battle when the Golden Division was initially sent into the city on its own due to political pressure from Baghdad, and when other units were eventually sent in there was a lack for coordination for several weeks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 147, March 12, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were pushing inside and outside of Mosul. The Golden Division, Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were still attacking the Old City section along the Tigris River. Jadida and Aghawat were freed, the latter was declared liberated on March 10. Fighting was on going in Bab al-Tob as well. To the west of the city the 16th Division took another village, and so did the Hashd in the Badush district.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was quoted by Paul Iddon in “This Is Not Your Father’s Iraqi Army” in War Is Boring.

Mosul Campaign Day 146, Mar 11, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued their push into the middle of west Mosul. The Golden Division split its forces with one unit going west to attack Resala and the other heading east towards the Old City along the Tigris River. The latter was attacked from three directions and included the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division. An Iraqi general claimed that roughly half of the western section of Mosul is now in government hands. Just south of the city the police also took two towns and assaulted a third, and the 16th Division seized another in its first action of the new campaign. Finally, a village in the Badush district to the west of Mosul was liberated as well. The Hashd discovered a mass grave near the Badush prison that that had several hundred bodies in it. Human Rights Watch documented the execution of over 600 prisoners when the Islamic State moved into the facility in 2014.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Violence In Iraq, March 1-7, 2017

There were a total of 179 incidents reported in Iraq in the first week of March. That was just around the same amount as the previous week when there were 181. Those high figures were due to the fighting in Mosul.

A total of 749 people were killed and 622 wounded. 21 Peshmerga, 21 Hashd al-Shaabi, 37 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 670 civilians lost their lives. Another 2 Sahwa, 50 Hashd, 131 ISF, and 439 Civilians were injured.

Mosul Campaign Day 145, Mar 10, 2017

There was more movement into the middle of west Mosul, and in the Badush district. The Golden Division seized the Amil 1, Amil 2 and the Aghawat neighborhoods. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division moving up the Tigris River freed Nabi Sheet, Okaidat, Bab Jadid, and attacked Bab al-Tob again. To the west of the city the Iraqi forces (ISF) took two more towns in the Badush area. The advance along multiple fronts is stretching the Islamic State’s defenses. General Maan al-Saadi from the Golden Division claimed that they had been broken, but that’s yet to be seen.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 144, Mar 9, 2017

March 9 was a day of advances and consolidation for the Iraqi forces (ISF). Inside Mosul the Golden Division freed Muallemin and Silo in the southwest. The police were clearing the areas they had taken in the southeast along the Tigris River, and fighting just outside the Mosul Museum. General Talib Shaghati of the Golden Division hoped that all of western Mosul could be taken within a month. To the west the 9th Division and the Al-Abbas Division of the Hashd took the Badush power station, and two towns in the area as well. These represent the three main axes in the Mosul campaign, even though the last has not reached the city itself yet. The original operational plan launched in October collapsed because the Iraqi command could not coordinate its forces on multiple fronts, and had to consolidate them all down to just one. In the four months since the ISF has been able to successfully develop their strategies and implementation.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day143, Mar 8, 2017

Mansour above Wadi Hajar was one of the new neighborhoods taken on March 8 (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

The Golden Division continued their push from the southern tip of west Mosul into the center. The Joint Operations Command had it freeing the Mansour and Shahuda neighborhoods. A security source told New Sabah that the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were pushing into the Old City, but that might be premature. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) are advancing along two axes. One is along the Tigris River by the police and the other is in the middle by the Golden Division. Eventually a third from the west should be opened as well when the 9th Division and Al-Abbas Division finally reach the city.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 141-42, Mar 6-7, 2017

Iraqi forces captured the Hurriya Bridge March 6 and prematurely claimed to have taken the government complex, but were ambushed by the Islamic State (BBC)

March 6 the Iraqi forces (ISF) were moving into the middle of west Mosul. First the Federal Police (FP) and Rapid Reaction Division (RRD) captured the Hurriya Bridge. This was the second span across the Tigris that the ISF secured. All of the bridges were knocked out by the U.S. led Coalition during the battle for east Mosul to hinder the Islamic State’s movement within the city. The FP and RRD also seized a number of government buildings and public works in the Danadan neighborhood. The Golden Division was fighting in the western outskirts and center of the western section of the city and seized Samoud. Finally, Dour al-Sokkar near the Ghazlani Camp just outside of Mosul was also freed.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How Is The Islamic State Dealing With Its Defeat In Mosul? Interview With Charlie Winter On IS Media Output

More than half of Mosul has fallen to Iraqi government forces and it is only a matter of time before the whole city is retaken. How is the Islamic State portraying this defeat? Has it changed its messaging since the start of the battle? Charlie Winter a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College, London and an Associate Fellow at the International Center for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague sheds light on this issue. He has been following The Islamic State’s media output throughout the Mosul campaign. He can be followed on Twitter @charliewinter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 140, Mar 5, 2017

The Iraqi forces (ISF) went back on the offensive after a one day pause. On March 5 there were no operations due to the poor weather. On March 6 the ISF went back to work attacking along two fronts. First, the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division continued their push up the Tigris River assaulting the Danadan and Dawas neighborhoods, taking the former. The Golden Division moved up the center of south Mosul into Sumoud, Tal Ruman, Shuhada and Mansour. Danadan, Dawas and Tal Ruman had all been declared freed before. In Tal Ruman, the Islamic State were using civilians as human shields to try to stop the Iraqi advance. U.S. Apache helicopters as well as the mix of Coalition and Iraqi planes were seen overhead. The ISF are still in the tip of south Mosul pushing into the center, but are making steady progress. As usual, the Islamic State is putting up a stiff defense, but it is only a matter of time before it is broken.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

Mosul Campaign Day 138-39, Mar 3-4, 2017

Wadi Hajar is the newest neighborhood freed by the Iraqi forces (Institute for the Study of War)

The Iraqi forces were still fighting over the initial areas of southeast Mosul. After several days of tough fighting the Golden Division finally freed the Wadi Hajar neighborhood on March 3 directly north of the Ghazlani Camp. The unit was then moving east towards the Tigris River to connect with the police units there. Dawas was still contested after it was unofficially declared liberated on February 28, and so was Mansour. On March 4 operations had to be halted because of bad weather and rain. The Islamic State took advantage of the poor conditions to launch a series of counterattacks. The insurgents are also using more suicide bombers. One army officer said there were at least 10 per day. Like east Mosul the going has been hard. Despite all the Iraqi propaganda that IS is a defeated force it is putting up a stiff defense. The question as always is how long can it sustain it before it breaks.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Battle For West Mosul Interview With BBC’s Quentin Sommerville

On February 19 the campaign to retake Mosul began anew. The Iraqi forces attacked across three fronts with the Federal Police and Emergency Response Division (ERD) following the Tigris River up to Mosul Airport and then into south Mosul. The BBC’s Quentin Sommervile was embedded with the RRD during its initial assault on the city.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 137, Mar 2, 2017

Golden Division soldiers waiting in an alley west Mosul (Reuters)

March 2 was another day of hard fighting in south Mosul. The Islamic State took advantage of a rainstorm to attack the Golden Division. Some fighters were hiding amongst displaced families to approach the frontlines before revealing themselves. The Golden Division is currently trying to secure the Wadi Hajar neighborhood. Reporting has been very inconsistent on how far they’ve gotten. On February 28 the district was unofficially declared freed, then said to be 80% under control on March 1, and then just 70% on March 3. Whatever the figure is, the neighborhood is still hotly contested.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

4,290 Dead And Wounded In Iraq In February 2017

With the Mosul campaign back underway casualties remained very high in Iraq. There were a total of 1,832 deaths and 2,458 wounded recorded during the month based upon daily research into over 40 media outlets, mostly Iraqi. An American General added that 500 members of the Iraqi forces (ISF) were killed and 5,000 wounded in the fight for east Mosul. When compared to previous reports that would add an additional 399 dead and 1,634 injured to the total. In January the figures were higher as the battle for east Mosul was still underway with 1,871 killed and 4,302 injured.

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