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.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited several detention facilities in Hamam al-Alil and Qayara south of Mosul and found them overcrowded and in poor condition. HRW saw 1,269 prisoners there. Many detainees are being held incommunicado because there are not enough judges to review their cases. At the same time, at Qayara there were around 300 men who had been cleared by a magistrate but were being held anyway due to objections by the National Security Service. The jails were so crowded that people could not lay down to sleep. Baghdad recently sent a committee to review the facilities and agreed to send 20 more interrogators, 10 of which had arrived at the start of March, to try to relieve the overcrowding. The Iraqi authorities are being overwhelmed having to screen all the people coming out of Mosul and the surrounding towns. The process has been continuously criticized for all the different groups involved, the lack of due process, and the denial of rights. Even in regular conditions Iraq’s legal and prison systems are largely dysfunctional. When under stress like it is now it barely works.

Another mass grave containing victims of the Islamic State was found in the Badush district. An estimated 160 bodies were uncovered in the town of Rihaniya. They were thought to be mostly members of the security forces from surrounding towns that were executed. Every time an area is taken from IS these horrific sites are uncovered.

While there is a huge flood of people coming out of west Mosul, others are still leaving the east. The United Nations noted that this was especially true in the northeast which is still under IS mortar fire, and there is fear of IS infiltration. Some people also sheltered in abandoned homes during the fighting, and now have to leave that the owners have returned, but have nowhere to go. Throughout the campaign there has been a constant flow of people in and out of the city, and this is just another example of that continuing process.

Finally, CNN reported that the insurgents infamous destruction of the Mosul Museum and historic Nimrod site were mostly to cover the group’s real purpose. Most of the items destroyed were large replicas, especially in the museum. IS has done this in several sites in Iraq and Syria claiming that it was destroying the unIslamic past of the region. What the organization was really after were the real artifacts like those contained in the vaults, which were sold as another fund raising source.


Baghdad Post, "25 dead, dozens injured as west Mosul districts come under fire," 3/13/17
- "Iraqi forces foil attack by ISIS, kill 15 terrorists in western Mosul," 3/13/17

BBC, “IS fighters left in Mosul will die, says US envoy McGurk,” 3/13/17

Davison, John, "Weary and Wary, Iraq Special Forces Fight 'House-By-House' in Mosul," Reuters, 3/13/17

Gamal, Gabriel, Tony and Dunlop, W.G., “Iraqi forces take third of west Mosul, jihadists ‘trapped,’” Agence France Presse, 3/12/17

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Hundreds Detained in Degrading Conditions,” 3/13/17

Iraq News Network, “Yarallah, freed new neighborhood in West Mosul,” 3/13/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: March 13, 2017,” 3/13/17

Al Masalah, "Mass grave found in Mosul containing the remains of 160 people," 3/13/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "3 Iraqi soldiers killed during Old Mosul district invasion," Iraqi News, 3/13/17
- "Bomb blast kills 8 civilians in eastern Mosul: sources," Iraqi News, 3/13/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces free 2 neighborhoods from IS in western Mosul,” 3/13/17


News and views from spain said...

Hi Joel,
It's not an easy question to answer I know, but do you think there is any future for Mosul after ISIS and if so, do you think it will become a majority Sunni city again or is something much darker waiting in the shadows?

Joel Wing said...

1st there's not going to be a demographic change in the city. Those that are displaced want to return to their homes as soon as possible. The on going fighting and the insecurity and lack of services in liberated east Mosul are hindering that process.

As for the long term the govt has to take care of a number of issues, none of which will be easy. 1) They need to establish police control of the city instead of the mix of units that don't cooperate 2) They need to pump in a huge amount of money to rebuild which neither Baghdad nor aid groups have, 3) They need to have a series of meetings to determine the future of Ninewa in general which will have an impact on Mosul. These will go a long way to determining whether Baghdad will be able to maintain the goodwill it has earned amongst the people of Mosul during the military campaign.

Anonymous said...


In the long term Mosul will have a smaller percentage of Sunni Arabs. How much smaller remains to be determined.

Joel, the Iraqi Army will probably have a large long term presence inside Mosul.

In 2003-2004, Mosul was relatively safe, quiet and secure. In 2004, MNF-N tried to transfer security responsibility to the Mosul police. It seemed to be working well. Then came the November 8th, 2014 blitzkrieg into Mosul by Al Qaeda and sectarian Sunni Arab militias (which at that time called themselves the Iraqi resistance). This was at the time a major challenge to the new sovereign legitimate Government of Iraq.


At the request of the Iraqi Defense Minister and Iraqi PM, Peshemerga and MNF-N forces re-entered Mosul and defeated Al Qaeda and the sectarian Sunni Arab militias in the few days.

In 2005, the Iraqi Army (then BG Mouttah's 2nd Iraqi Army in particular) established a strong presence inside Mosul city, and MNF-N gradually began to transfer security responsibility for Mosul, Ninevah and At Tamin to the Iraqi Army. This transfer completed in 2006, when the Iraqi Security Forces and Pesh assume almost full responsibility for the North. Starting in 2006, only one coalition brigade (Colonel Twitty's brigade) provided overwatch [combat enablers, advisers, trainers] for all of Ninevah, At Tamin, Northern Salahadin, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Arbil. Back in 2005-2007, The Iraqi Army units in Ninevah (then BG/MG Kirshad's 3rd Division and then BG Moutta's 2nd Division) were arguably the most elite in all of Iraq. By 2008, the Iraqi Army had many high quality Divisions.

The Iraqi Army retained a dominant role in Mosul security until 2014. The Iraqi Army is likely to maintain a large presence inside Mosul city indefinitely.

And this is good. Better the Iraqi Army than the deeply distrusted Popular Mobilization Committee forces and the predominantly Kurdish Peshmerga.

I think this time Moslawis will show a lot more respect, gratitude and adoration towards the Iraqi Army . . . having tasted the alternative first hand.

Back in 2004-2014, many of the Sunni Arabs in the Iraqi Army came from Mosul and Ninevah more broadly. It will be important for the Iraqi Army to again incorporate many brave sons of Mosul.

If I can change the topic, Joel, what role do you think former Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi will play in Mosul.

I was shocked by:
I obviously have a more favorable perspective on Nujaifi than PM Abadi. My hope is that CINC Trump uses his amazing negotiating skills to lower the temperature between Abadi and Nujaifi. Iraq, Syria and the world needs a lot more help from the Turks.

Joel Wing said...

Why do you think there will be fewer Sunni Arabs in Mosul? Of the minorities that used to live there who are going to return? I think very few Christians or Kurds will want to go back any time soon. That will make Mosul more not less Sunni Arab.

Anonymous said...

I think many Kurds will move to Mosul. The Turks might try to move Turkmen into Mosul. Also think twelvers might move into Mosul. This would reduce the likelihood of a future ISIS offensive inside Mosul.


Joel Wing said...

WHY would more minorities go back? The city is going to take months and months to rebuild. It's thoroughly associated with IS's capital in Iraq. Doesn't seem like much motivation to go back to the city in large numbers. No civilian is thinking about moving to a city to stop IS from rebuilding.

This Day In Iraqi History - Dec 8 After US soldiers complained about not having adequate equipment Def Sec Rumsfeld said you go to war with the army you have

  1985 Saudis announced attempt to end the Iran-Iraq War through dialogue with Tehran ( Musings On Iraq interview with ...