Sunday, April 30, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was cited in “Analysis: ‘Signs of Recovery for the Islamic State,’” by Kyle Orton for The Henry Jackson Society. I was interviewed for "Can Iraq integrate Hashd paramilitaries into the armed forces?" by Paul Iddon for Rudaw.

Mosul Campaign Day 194-195, Apr 28-29, 2017

Life after the Islamic State in Mosul. Toys were banned by the group, but now for sale in east Mosul (The Sun)

April 29 the Joint Operations Command announced that there was a small advance in the Old City. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division moved from 300 to 200 meters within the Grand Mosque in the district. In a rare occurrence, the Iraqi forces announced losses in the day’s fighting. 14 Federal Police were killed, and 20 wounded by a series of suicide bombers. Four more were killed by sniper fire. The Golden Division and police were also attempting to take the Zinjali neighborhood, which would further surround the Old City. The police have been assaulting the Old City for nearly two months. The fight has been very difficult sometimes involving room to room combat. The main job of the police has been to hold down the Islamic State, while the Golden Division took the center of the city. A member of the Ninewa council told Al Mada that strategy remains in place to bypass the district, and seize the rest of west Mosul.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Security In Iraq April 15-21, 2017

The number of reported security incidents in Iraq took another drop for the third straight week. There were 106 incidents mentioned in the press from April 15-21. That was the lowest count for the year, and the fewest incidents since 2013. That was due to violence being down across the country along with a dip in Ninewa where the Battle for Mosul was going on.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 193, Apr 27, 2017

There were no advances in west Mosul for a second day. Federal Police commander General Shakir Jawadat said that his forces were 300 meters from the Grand Mosque in the Old City, which was where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014. The police have been that distance from the mosque for more than a month now however. The Golden Division let it be known that there were only four districts left to be liberated in the city. That’s roughly forty percent of the western half. The police have been stalemated in the Old City for weeks now. The Golden Division on the other hand seized most of the center of the city. It is likely consolidating its latest move into the Tanak neighborhood, the largest in the west.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 192, Apr 26, 2017

A market in Nabi Younis, east Mosul (Reuters)

There were clashes in west Mosul, and the Hashd were advancing towards the Syrian border. The Golden Division was fighting in Zinjali, and the Federal Police were battling in Rifai, Harmat, and the Wadi Akab cemetery, both in the eastern section of the city. The Hashd on the other hand captured four towns, including the historical Hatra, west of Mosul. Hatra is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Islamic State destroyed part of it after it was captured in 2014. In 2015 the group released a video of it smashing walls, shooting statues, and destroying other structures. That was for propaganda purposes however, as the main goal of IS was not to wreck the place, but rather to loot it and sell the antiquities to help raise funds. The police and Golden Division are attempting to link up in the Old City district, while the Hashd are pushing towards the Syrian border, because the government will not let it take Tal Afar.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 191, Apr 25, 2017

The Golden Division freed the Tanak neighborhood located on the far left. The police are still fighting over the Old City on the far right along the Tigris River. Green = liberated, White = IS control, Blue = Tigris River. (Ninewa Media Center)

There was a large advance in the western section of west Mosul, and very limited movement in the east. The Golden Division freed Tanak, which it fought over for almost a month. It is one of the largest neighborhoods in the city and is along the western edge. In the east the police inched ahead. It was still attacking the Old City along four axes and was said to have seized some streets in Bab al-Tob and Bab al-Jadid. The police recently restarted their operations in the district after a month long pause, but have only advanced a few meters.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 190, Apr 24, 2017

Federal Police mortar position east Mosul (Reuters)

The Joint Operations Command announced that only 30% of west Mosul remained under Islamic State control. Based upon daily reports and maps available that sounded roughly correct. In the last several weeks the Golden Division has seized much of the center of west Mosul greatly expanding the government’s control of the city.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 189, Apr 23, 2017

People fleeing the fighting in central West Mosul (Reuters)

The Islamic State launched a surprise attack upon a Federal Police base south of Mosul. A group of ten insurgents, four of which were suicide bombers, assaulted the police in the town of Arij in the Hamam al-Alil district. They were dressed in police uniforms, which allowed them to infiltrate the base. The fighting lasted for over an hour before most of the militants were killed and the rest escaped. Three police died as a result. While IS is surrounded in west Mosul it has not stopped it from launching offensive operations. Just this week it set off a car bomb in liberated east Mosul. Fortunately these attacks do not happen that often.

Security In Iraq, April 8-14, 2017

Security incidents reported in the press took a dip in the second week of April in Iraq, while casualties remained largely unchanged from the previous week. There was very little violence around most of the country, with almost all the incidents taking place in Ninewa due to the Battle for Mosul.

There were 124 incidents reported in the press in Iraq from April 8-14, 2017. There were 58 in Ninewa, 28 in Baghdad, 14 in Diyala, 9 in Anbar, 8 in Salahaddin, 3 in Basra and Kirkuk each, and 1 in Babil. That was the lowest weekly total since the first February 1-7 when there were 123.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

My interview with Charlie Winter on how the Islamic State is dealing with its defeat in Mosul was reprinted by Vox Pol.

Mosul Campaign Day 188, Apr 22, 2017

The Iraqi forces were active across all sections of west Mosul. First, the Golden Division took the Siha neighborhood in the middle of the city. It was still fighting in Tanak as well. General Maan Saadi claimed that the Golden Division was surrounding the Old City, but it continues to move north rather than to the east where the Old City is. The police were still assaulting that district from four directions, but the fight still appeared to be deadlocked. A brigade from the army’s 16th Division, which was doing security duties in east Mosul was transferred to the northwest of the city to join the 9th Division and the Hashd. Those units reached just outside of Mosul a few days ago, but there have been no reports of movement since then, although government maps claim they have seized several areas in the northern perimeter of west Mosul. Since the Iraqi government always likes reporting its victories the maps may be an exaggeration. The Golden Division remains the most effective force of the government. It has continued to gain neighborhood after neighborhood in the west and center of west Mosul. The police on the other hand announced that they were renewing operations in the Old City after a month long pause, but have still not made much headway. Fighting in the district is very intense going from street to street, house to house, sometimes room to room. The police may be over relying upon artillery and air strikes as well rather than clearing out areas on the ground. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 187, Apr 21, 2017

The Iraqi forces were involved in heavy fighting across west Mosul. There were clashes between the Islamic State and Golden Division in the Siha neighborhood, and with the police in the Old City district. The Golden Division has been making steady progress up the middle and western section of the city, while the police have been stuck in the Old City for more than a month. The narrow streets, dense layout of buildings, and Islamic State defenses have all held up taking the district.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 186, Apr 20, 2017

April 19 Iraqi police claimed they had liberated 30-40% of the Old City. Newest map shows no changes in district. Bulge on left was recent 200m advance police made April 16, otherwise no movement in south for over month now (Ninewa Media Center)

The Golden Division was still advancing in the center of west Mosul. The Nasr neighborhood was declared freed, and there was fighting in Haramat, Siha, and Tanak. The unit has been making steady progress in the middle and western section of the city.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 185, Apr 19, 2017

PM Abadi visiting west Mosul (Rudaw)

Iraqi propaganda again obscured what was going on in west Mosul. First, the Golden Division freed the Thawra neighborhood in the center of the city on April 18. Then on April 19 a spokesman for the Rapid Reaction Division claimed that 30% of the Old City had been taken, while a police major had it at 40%. The major said this was the result of 38 days of fighting in the district. The police have largely been on pause for the last month however, and no neighborhoods were named as being liberated. The Federal Police also reported that it was destroying Islamic State sites in the district, fighting in Farouq Street like they have for weeks now, and attempting to connect with the Golden Division in Thawra. All the previous reports had the police advancing block by block with no large sections being seized. To add to the confusion, the daily map released by the government showed the Golden Division’s latest movement in the center of the city, but no change in the Old City. Not only that it had new sections in the north being taken, yet this was not announced in any press releases. Recently the 9th Division and Hashd took the towns that were just outside of the city, but nothing else has been heard from them since then. The Iraqi government is notorious for exaggerating and making claims before they happen and it would seem this was another example.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 184, Apr 18, 2017

Iraqi Federal Police firing a mortar in Old City, west Mosul (USA Today)

The Golden Division maintained its push into central west Mosul. Its forces were still fighting in the Thawra and Tanak neighborhoods. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi claimed that once those two were taken the Old City district would be mostly surrounded. In actuality the division would just be pushing along its perimeter more. That’s what the Golden Division has been doing for the last month. Taking the district remains the job of the police who are only making halting progress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 183, Apr 17, 2017

Bulge in middle of map represent recent gains by Golden Division in center of west Mosul. Green at top is where 9th Division seized entrances to northwest section of city. Iraqi police still fighting over Old City on right in grey. Green = liberated, white = IS control, blue = Tigris River (Ninewa Media Center)

The Iraqi police were still attempting to seize the Grand Mosque in the Old City district of west Mosul. They were fighting in the Farouq neighborhood of the district. At the same time, the Islamic State counterattacked and forced them out of the Kornish Street area. The police spent the day attempting to drive off the insurgents. The Iraqi police only recently restarted their effort in the Old City after a month long pause. Their progress has still been extremely slow due to the tough defenses of the Islamic State and the dense layout, which has reduced most of the fighting to house to house, room to room.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 181-182, Apr 15-16, 2017

The Golden Division was said to be finally assaulting the Old City, but that claimw as unclear. The unit was fighting in the Tanak neighborhood, which was declared freed on April 13, and in Thawra. There was also a report that the unit was pushing on the Fifth Bridge across the Tigris. The problem with that is the Golden Division is in the center and west of Mosul, and the Fifth Bridge is all the way on the other side of the city to the east. Also Tanak and Thawra have been fought over since the end of March, so the division has not entered any new areas yet. At the same time Iraqi propaganda often exaggerates progress so these may be new areas the unit was fighting over.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

Security In Iraq, April 1-7, 2017

The on going Battle for Mosul continued to drive violence across Iraq in April 2017. In the rest of the country attacks have been going steadily down for the last few months, especially in places like Baghdad, which has seen the fewest incidents and casualties in years.

There were 169 incidents in Iraq from April 1-7 reported in the press. That was the most since 171 from March 8-14. There were 88 incidents in Ninewa, followed by 32 in Baghdad, 17 in Diyala, 9 in Salahaddin, 9 in Anbar, 7 in Kirkuk, 3 in Basra, 3 in Babil, and 1 in Najaf.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 180, Apr 14, 2017

Map comparing WMosul April 4 (top) to April 14, 2017 (bottom). The police have made no movement for a month in the Old City (grey area) to the right. The Golden Division on the other hand has moved up into the center of the city. The 9th Division and Hashd also just took the towns leading to the entrance to Mosul from the northwest. Green = liberated, white = IS controlled, blue = Tigris river (Ninewa Media Center)

ISF using jamming devices against IS UAVs Mosul (Baghdad Post)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 179, Apr 13, 2017

Dots represent destroyed sites in Mosul observed by the UN. Different colors represent different types of structures such as red for commercial, yellow for housing. (UN Human Settlements Program)

The big news of the day on the military front was that the 9th Division and Hashd almost reached west Mosul. They took five towns just on the outskirts of the city. These forces have been caught up clearing the Badush district to the west for the last two months, cutting off escape routes for the Islamic State. It is assumed that they will eventually assault the city itself and open a new front in the northwest.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 178, Apr 12, 2017

The Golden Division remains the most active unit in west Mosul. They were still fighting in Abar and Tank in the center of the front. The police restarted their assault upon the Old City and received reinforcements from the Interior Ministry. The attack on the Old City stalled several weeks ago leading to a change in strategy with the Golden Division pushing up the middle to try to surround the district, while the police held down the Islamic State. The Golden Division have not joined the fight in the Old City yet so it is unclear whether that operation has really renewed or not.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 177, Apr 11, 2017

The grey area in the east along the Tigris River is the Old City, where the police have been holding down the Islamic State. The bulges in the middle of the front are where the Golden Division has been making its advances in recent weeks. Green = Liberated, White = IS Control, Blue = Tigris River. (Nineveh Media Center)

Both the police and Counter Terrorism Forces (CTF) – Golden Division were at work in west Mosul. On April 10 the Golden Division was fighting in Tanak, Abar, Aruba, and Matahen. That last neighborhood was declared freed the day before. On April 11, the unit was said to be clearing Matahen, Yarmouk and Maghreb. Maghreb was liberated on April 5, and Yarmouk on April 10. These are all areas in the center and western sections of the city, where the CTF have been making steady advances. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division on the other hand, have claimed they were pushing towards the Grand Mosque in the Old City section in the east each day, but in reality they were not making any serious movement. This was continuously denied over the last few weeks, but was finally admitted in an announcement that they re-started their attack upon the Old City. The Federal Police assaulted three strongpoints of the Islamic State near the Grand Mosque. IS was said to be retreating from the district, and forcing civilians to go with them as human shields. The operation against the Old City quickly ground to a halt due to the dense layout, narrow streets, and tough Islamic State defenses. That forced a re-think of tactics and strategy. Reports of heavy civilian casualties caused more delays as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 176, Apr 10, 2017

There was little activity in west Mosul again as the Iraqi forces (ISF) were preparing a new offensive against the Old City district along the Tigris River. The Yarmouk and Sakak neighborhoods were officially declared freed by the Golden Division. The unit took the first half of Yarmouk on April 3 and then the second half on April 6. Despite the announcement there was heavy fighting in both areas. The Golden Division have moved up into the western and central sections of the city, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division have held down Islamic State units in the Old City. That area is to be surrounded and then attacked. This operation is behind schedule however due to heavy civilian casualties.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 174-175, Apr 8-9, 2017

Palm Sunday services held for first time in three years in church in Qaraqosh, Ninewa, which was burned by Islamic State (Reuters)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) are only carrying out minimal operations in west Mosul in preparation for an impending big push to seize the Old City district. On April 8 the Federal Police claimed it achieved a breakthrough in the Zinjali neighborhood in the Old City. The police said this cut off some Islamic State supply routes to the area. The next day Federal Police commander General Shakir Jawadat stated that 60% of the defenses around the Grand Mosque in the Old City were destroyed. Iraqi propaganda is anything but consistent since Golden Division General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi was quoted in the press a week before that all the defenses were breached. Whatever the percentage is the Iraqi police have been inching towards the mosque for weeks now. Finally the Golden Division seized the Matahen neighborhood in central west Mosul. That unit has been moving up the western and central section of the city to try to encircle the Old City, which is now surrounded on two sides by the ISF with a third running along the Tigris River. The final push into this area should be coming soon. According to Al Mada the operation was supposed to have already started, but was delayed due to heavy civilian casualties.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was mentioned by Ben Watson and Kevin Baron in “Trump leans on China, North Korea; Dunford takes Kushner to Iraq; Egypt at the WH; #SAS2017 livestream; Q&A on Space War; And a bit more” for Defense One. I was cited in "A house divided, Political relations and coalition-building between Iraq's Shi'a" by Erwin van Veen, Nick Grinstead, Floor El Kamouni-Janssen for the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, and in "Trump's strike on Syria: A convenient distraction" by Ibrahim al-Marashi for Al Jazeera. My interview with Charlie Winter on how the Islamic State is dealing with its defeat in Mosul was reprinted by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

6,732 Dead and Wounded In Iraq In March 2017

6,732 people died or were wounded in Iraq in March 2017. That compared to 4,290 casualties in February. It was the highest figure since 13,184 dead and injured were reported in December 2016. The cause of the huge increase was the fighting in Mosul. In the middle of February the government re-started its campaign by assaulting the western half of the city. The dense layout, the use of human shields by the Islamic State and its indiscriminate attack upon civilians, and an increase in air strikes, mortars and artillery by the Coalition and Iraqi forces have all contributed to the rising number of fatalities and injured. At the same time, because the government is not reporting casualties and there is only limited access to the front in Mosul the recorded numbers should be considered a minimum.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 172-173, Apr 6-7, 2017

Most of the Iraqi advances in Mosul have been in the west such as Yarmouk (far left), which was just captured by the Golden Division (Institute for the Study of War)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) have been preparing for a new offensive in west Mosul. That has resulted in a relative pause in operations. On April 6 the Golden Division did take Yarmouk 2 in the western side of the city. Otherwise the ISF were preparing to storm the Old City in the east along the Tigris River. General Najim Abdullah al-Jabouri of the Ninewa Operations Command said that the attack upon the Old City would rely less on airstrikes due to civilian casualties.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Next Phase Against The Islamic State Cutting Its Finances, Interview With RAND’s Patrick Johnston

The Islamic State is on its way to being defeated in the Battle of Mosul. Afterward it is likely to lose its remaining territory in Iraq. It is already transitioning back to an insurgency however. To finally stamp out the group its funding needs to be cut off. That can’t be done on the battlefield however, but through intelligence and law enforcement. Recently the RAND Corporation published a report on the group’s finances entitled “Financial Futures of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” To talk about the next step against the Islamic State is one of the paper’s authors Patrick Johnston. He can be followed on Twitter @JOHNSTON.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 170-171, Apr 4-5, 2017

Federal Police fighting in Old City, West Mosul (Reuters)

The Iraqi Air Force once again dropped flyers over Mosul telling the citizens to stay in their homes. In the past such actions have preceded a new offensive by the Iraqi forces (ISF). One is about overdue as the police have made no real advances in the Old City for several weeks now.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Plight Of Civilians In The Battle For Mosul, Interview With Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera

As the battle for Mosul enters its sixth month there are growing concerns about the damage and casualties it is causing. The Jadida incident where a Coalition air strike was blamed for over two hundred civilian deaths highlighted the rising costs incurred from the fighting. To help describe the situation is Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera who has been interviewing people in Mosul and Ninewa during the campaign. She can be followed on Twitter @DRovera.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 169, Apr 3, 2017

Most of the fighting has been in the western section of the front (red circle) by the Golden Division. Green = liberated. Red = frontline. White = Islamic State control (Iraqi Day)

There has been no real advances in the Old City along the Tigris River in west Mosul for several weeks now as can be seen by comparing these two maps from March 27 vs April 3, 2017. Green = liberated. Red  = frontline. Gold = Islamic State control (Iraqi Day)

After a couple slow days the Iraqi forces (ISF) announced some new advances. The Yarmouk and Nahrawan neighborhoods were freed in the west and there was fighting in Matahen and Aghawat. The Golden Division has moved up into the center and western section of west Mosul, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were still concerned with the Old City district. The police were opening up routes for civilians to leave that area to try to clear the battlefield before launching a new operation there. As usual, bad weather has been holding up air support, and in turn the Iraqi ground forces.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 168, Apr 2, 2017

The last few days have been slow for the Iraqi forces (ISF) inside west Mosul. The Golden Division recaptured the Rajim al-Hadid neighborhood that the Islamic State seized the day before. That was the first time the insurgents were able to take any territory in the Mosul battle. There was still fighting in Yarmouk in the west as well. The Golden Division claimed it had freed the area on March 22. Otherwise there were no advances reported. The ISF is now in control of roughly 60% of the western section of the city.

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