Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 226 May 30 2017

There has been very slow progress since the last phase of the Mosul Battle began four days ago. Zinjali has been the only neighborhood where constant advances have been reported. A military school run by the Islamic State was captured. Army officers told Agence France Presse that things were moving very slowly in Shifa where there are several hospitals the Iraqi forces (ISF) were not trying to destroy. As usual, the insurgents are relying upon small units to carry out hit and run tactics. They fire upon the ISF and then move onto another position. During the day they launched two counterattacks, one in Bab al-Tob in the Old City, and another in Hawi Kanisa, which is a liberated area of west Mosul. Iraqi officials and members of the ISF were talking about expelling IS from the city in just a few days. That is probably overly optimistic as most Iraqi announcements are.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 225 May 29 2017

The third day of the last phase of the Battle for Mosul saw fighting on all fronts, with limited progress. The Federal Police moved 100 more meters into Zinjali for a total of 400 meters. Most of the Islamic State fighters in the neighborhood were said to have retreated to the Old City. There was continued clashes in that district and Saha where reinforcements were sent in. The Iraqi air force once again leafletted the city telling people to flee through safe corridors set up by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Originally, the government told the population to stay within the city because neither it nor aid agencies had the capacity to deal with them. That greatly complicated the battle and has led to huge casualties. Baghdad has finally changed tact and is now telling citizens to leave to make way for the ISF.

Mosul Campaign day 224 May 28 2017

Federal Police officer firing an RPG in west Mosul (Reuters)

The second day of the new push on west Mosul brought mixed successes. The Golden Division was said to be in control of 70% of Saha, the Rapid Reaction Division and Federal Police 60% of Zinjali. Other reports however had the police only 300 meters into Zinjali. The Islamic State also set another ambush for the Iraqi forces in the medical center in Saha. On May 27 the center was taken, but during the night IS counter attacked and drove the Iraqi forces (ISF) out. The Ibn Sina Hospital in the center was set on fire, and 12 civilians executed inside by the militants. 13 ISF were killed during the fighting. The ISF command wants to capture these neighborhoods along with Shifa in the next 72 hours and then move onto the Old City, the largest district still under insurgent control. Not to be out done, the Golden Division spokesman predicted that all of Mosul would be liberated in just a few days. Iraqi propaganda is known for its exaggeration. IS defenses in the Old City successfully held off the police for several months and even a multi-pronged attack from several directions is likely to be difficult.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 223 May 27 2017

The last assault on Mosul finally began. The Army’s 9th, 15th, and 16th Divisions attacked the Shifa neighborhood. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division went into Zinjali, while the Golden Division attacked the first Saha district. The Third Bridge across the Tigris River was reached, and the Mosul Hotel and Tamuz 17 were both taken. This was the fourth time the latter was declared freed. A brigade and a regimental commander in the 16th Division were killed in the day’s fighting. General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi of the Golden Division appeared on television stating that the Islamic State had lost control of the situation. On the other hand, General Haider Fadhil also of the Golden Division said that resistance had not lessoned, and remained high. Other Iraqi and American officers thought this would be the toughest part of the entire operation. IS only controls roughly five square miles of territory along the Tigris, but they have put up a determined defense especially in the Old City, which held up the police for months. The layout of the city in this area is especially dense and many streets are too narrow for vehicles or tanks to traverse. There have been several reports of the Iraqi forces having to fight floor to floor inside buildings. The insurgents also have an extensive tunnel network and have dug holes in walls to allow them to fire and maneuver without exposing themselves to air strikes. It’s likely that this final phase will take a few weeks to conclude.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 222 May 26 2017

Iraqi forces preparing for final assault on 4-7 neighborhoods Islamic State still controls in west Mosul (white area) (Ninewa Media Cell)

No combat was reported in Mosul during the day. That was because the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were gearing up for the final push on the city. The Joint Operations Command told the press that the city would fall in a few days. Even so, it warned that the fighting in the Old City would be difficult because of the narrow streets forcing the ISF to move into the district on foot. The ISF was also trying to get civilians to leave the area. Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon wouldn’t give a timeline for how long the battle would take, but didn’t think it would be over quickly like the Iraqis. Finally, Badr head Hadi Amiri criticized the Coalition for only giving token support and blamed it for Mosul not being liberated yet. Iraqi announcements are always positive because of its victory narrative. It wasn’t that long ago that they were claiming that the west Mosul would be so much easier than the east because most of the Islamic State fighters had fled. That didn’t happen. Amiri on the other hand is an ally of Iran and always looks to denigrate the work of the Americans and its allies as a result. Colonel Dillon was probably the most realistic. Mosul will fall, but no one can be sure how long it will take.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 221 May 25 2017

Battle damage in west Mosul’s Najar neighborhood (Baghdad Post)
More pictures taken from Niqash reporter returning to his home in Mosul (Niqash)

There were clashes in west Mosul, but the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were mostly preparing the for the next and final push to liberate the entire city. The army and Federal Police were fighting with the Islamic State in the Old City. The Federal Police were removing barricades in that district to allow civilians to escape, and for supplies to brought in for the ISF. Different units were moving into position for the next assault on the city. The Islamic State holds around 4-7 neighborhoods along the Tigris River. The Federal Police are in the south of that area, the Rapid Reaction Division in the east, and the Golden Division to the west and north. Yesterday reinforcements were arriving as well. The final phase of the battle will likely start soon after the ISF resupplies and refits. The conclusion should take a few weeks. Taking on the Old City will be the most difficult due to its dense layout and IS’s defenses.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 220 May 24 2017

The pace of operations in Mosul has lessened slightly after the recent gains. Northwest Mosul was quickly freed after a new front was opened by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Now there are just a few neighborhoods left under Islamic State control along the Tigris River. The Federal Police were fighting in Tamuz 17 and the Old City district. The former was declared freed three times before, but apparently still has Islamic State elements. Prime Minister Haider Abadi also called on the Golden Division to help take the rest of the city. Last week the unit declared that it had accomplished all its goals in the campaign, but it never stopped fighting. Reinforcements have arrived as well to the Old City for the final push. There is a slight pause in the offensive against the insurgents as the ISF consolidates its hold, and reloads and rearms before they make their last drive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 219 May 23 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) reached the Tigris River yesterday, and now are pushing south towards the last areas of the city held by the Islamic State. Depending upon the source there are either 5 or 7 neighborhoods left under Islamic State control. The Army’s 9th Division and 16th Divisions, the Golden Division, and the Rapid Reaction Division all pushed into the Shifa neighborhood, which the ISF claimed it freed back in March. There was also fighting in Hawi Kanisa, which has been declared cleared of insurgents twice before, and in the Old City.  The army warned that taking the Old City the largest section left could take longer than excepted. The deputy head of the army’s 9th Brigade hoped that would be two weeks. Earlier the ISF claimed they could finish operations before the start of Ramadan which is the fourth week of May. That doesn't seem possible. The ISF also built a bridge across the Tigris at the Hawi Kanisa neighborhood. That will be used to shift forces from the east to west and allow civilians to escape. There’s no timeline when offensive operations will restart to take the remaining districts, but it probably won’t be long.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 218 May 22 2017

A boy shows victory sign next to a captured IS armored vehicle in Najar neighborhood northwest Mosul, probably for use as a car bomb (Rudaw)

Roughly 4 neighborhoods remain under Islamic State control in Mosul (white area) (Ninewa Media Cell)

The liberation of all of Mosul is at hand. The Najar area along the Tigris River was the latest to fall to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There was fighting going on in Rifai as well. Colonel Patrick Work, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 82 Airborne Division, which is advising the Iraqi army in the battle warned that as the last sections of the city were reached the fighting would reach a crescendo. The ISF were building a bridge across the Tigris to connect the east and west to allow people to flee the conflict. Another span was already put up in the northern section of the city for the same purpose. There are only four neighborhoods left in west Mosul under Islamic State control. Iraqi generals and politicians are still talking about freeing the city before Ramadan, which is only a few days away. That is unlikely to happen, but the final date is still close at hand.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 216-217 May 20-21 2017

Latest map of west Mosul shows that the Iraqi forces are clearing up neighborhoods along Tigris River (Ninewa Media Cell)

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are taking the last neighborhoods of west Mosul. On May 20, Tamuz 17 was declared fully cleared by the Federal Police. The ISF said it freed the neighborhood twice before. Similarly Iqtisadin was liberated for the third time. Rabia was a new area taken from the insurgents as well. The next day there was continued fighting in Najar and Bab al-Sinjar was attacked by the Golden Division. The security forces and Ninewa officials agree there are only a few parts of west Mosul left under Islamic State control, but they disagree about which ones. The Golden Division and Federal Police told the press only four areas were left. They named the Old City, Shifa, and Siha, but had different neighborhoods for the fourth either Bab al-Sinjar or Zinjali. A member of the Ninewa security committee had the figure at 7 neighborhoods, but didn’t name them. Whatever the exact number is there are only a few left, and the battle for the city is near its end.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was quoted in “Foreign Advisers Are Turning Kurdish Soldiers Into Professionals” by Paul Iddon for War Is Boring. The Baghdad Post reprinted the Independent article on the Mosul Battle which I was interviewed for, and Al Mada, Al Ahed, Tabnak and Mihan all had an edited version of the same piece. I was also mentioned by John Moll in "Irak oglosil, ze bitwa o Mosul wkrotce dobiegnie konca" in the Polish Zmiany na Ziemi, and in "Trump revealed sensitive info to Russians; How US troops returned to Somalia; US Army's 'digital leash'; NATO military leaders' agenda; and just a bit more" by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston for Defense One. I was cited in "Bataille de Mossoul: Les Forces Irakienes Se Positionnent Pour L'Offensive Finale" in France Soir.

Security In Iraq May 1-7, 2017

There was another record low number of security incidents in Iraq the first week of May 2017. Casualties on the other hand were about average for the year.

There were just 105 incidents in Iraq from May 1-7, 2017. That was the lowest recorded total for a full week since Musings On Iraq began following security in 2013. By province there were 50 incidents in Ninewa, 22 in Baghdad, 8 in Anbar, 7 in Diyala, 6 in Salahaddin, 5 in Kirkuk, 3 in Babil and Basra each, and 1 in Dohuk. The dip in attacks was due to a drop in incidents in Ninewa. As the battle for the city is winding down there have been fewer attacks reported.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 215 May 19 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to push east and south towards the Tigris River and the Old City district respectively. The Rawsahn neighborhood was freed by the Golden Division, while the northern section of Tamuz 17 was brought under control. The problem with the latter is that the ISF claimed to have liberated all of Tamuz 17 twice before. The Iraqis are on the verge of taking Mosul, yet still exaggerate their gains. The victory narrative pushed by Baghdad since 2014 seems to require positive news be reported everyday both real and imagined.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 214 May 18 2017

The Iraqi forces are pushing down north towards the Old City (grey section), which will be the last part of Mosul taken from the Islamic State (Ninewa Media Cell)

The Golden Division announced that it attacked the Najar region along the Tigris River in west Mosul. It claimed it had reached that back on May 2 before the northern offensive had even begun, and then again on May 15. Too often the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) get ahead of themselves and state that they have reached or cleared an area before even being there, and this was another example.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 213 May 17 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were closing in on the last neighborhoods held by the Islamic State in Mosul. The July 17, Iqtisadin, and Rifai areas were all liberated during the day. The July 17 was said to have been freed on May 13, Iqtisadin on May 14, and Rifai on May 15. There was fighting on going in Siha, Najar, Zinjali, Bab al-Tob, Mekawi and Bab al-Jadid. The militants only hold roughly 10% of the city. The ISF routinely claim it has taken areas that are still contested or sometimes before they even arrive. The battle for the city is nearly over, and these places will eventually fall. The Iraqis can’t help themselves however from overstating their progress. That is an unfortunate result of the victory narrative the government has pushed since 2014.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 212 May 16 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were fighting over the areas just north of the Old City district in west Mosul. The Federal Police claimed they held 80% of Tamuz 17 and Iqtisadin. The former was declared freed on May 13, and the latter on May 14. The Iraqis often call areas cleared before they are. At the same time, the Islamic State has constantly re-infiltrated places after they have left.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 211 May 15 2017

Ravages of the fighting in northwest Mosul (Reuters)

More progress was made in west Mosul. The Ureibi and Rifai neighborhoods were freed by the Golden Division, Najar was attacked, and there was still fighting in the Tamuz 17 area. The Golden Division was reportedly in Najar by May 2, but may not have been near it, while Tamuz 17 was declared liberated on May 13. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) often get ahead of themselves in their announcements claiming that places are cleared when they are not. At the same time, the Islamic State has often re-infiltrated areas after they withdraw. The territory under IS control is rapidly shrinking, and there are only a few neighborhoods left until all of Mosul is freed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 210 May 14 2017

Comparison of West Ninewa maps from 5/6/17 vs 5/14/17 shows the quick advance the Iraqi forces have made since they attacked the northwest sector (Ninewa Media Cell)

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are closing the noose on the last areas of west Mosul held by the Islamic State. The Iqtisadin neighborhood was freed, Ureibi was attacked, and there was on going fighting in Bab al-Tob, Farouq, Bab al-Jadid, Tamuz 17, and Zinjali. A general from the Golden Division said that the insurgents were spent and exhausted, while the Federal Police commander General Shakir Jawadat estimated that the entire city would be freed by the end of May or the start of June at the latest. That sounded like a more realistic timeframe than the army chief of staff who talked about the end of the campaign in a few days to two weeks at most. Iraqi statements are always full of propaganda, so they need to be taken with a big grain of salt. What is undisputed is that the new attack upon northwest Mosul has gained huge results and the area under IS control is quickly shrinking.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was quoted in “Is Iraq prepared for the day after ISIS in Mosul?” by Paul Iddon in Rudaw and another article by Iddon “The ISIS drone threat” in Offiziere. Was also quoted by Bethan McKernan in "US-backed forces push into Mosul in final stages of battle against ISIS" for the Independent. Shafaaq News also reprinted part of the Independent article that mentioned me.

Mosul Campaign Day 209 May 13 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were moving ahead to capture the last remaining area of west Mosul under Islamic State control. The Tamuz 17, Harmat 3, Idamat al-Tamas, and Hawi Kanisa neighborhoods were all freed by the Golden, Rapid Reaction Division, and 16th Divisions. The last one for the second time. The ISF were still pushing into Iqtisadin as well. The army chief of staff is talking about freeing all of Mosul before Ramadan, which is in two weeks. Some Ninewa officials are skeptical of that timeline believing that the Old City section will be a tough fight taking another month. Whatever the timeframe the Islamic State on its last leg in the city.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 208 May 12 2017

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are making their final push to free west Mosul. The Harmat 2 and Islah al-Zirahi 1 neighborhoods were freed. The Islah al-Zirah 2 neighborhood was attacked, and there was still clashes going on in Iqtisadin and the Old City. Iraqi commanders are hoping that the battle for the city will be finished in a few days. It will probably be a few weeks, but the end is in sight.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 207 May 11 2017

The northern and southern fronts of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have now connected in west Mosul and are heading towards east. The Hawi Kanisa neighborhood was the latest to be freed. Mesherfa was declared liberated as well after the last section was cleared on May 6. The next day fighting was reported going on there. Islah al-Zirahi was still under attack, and Iqtisadin was entered as well. The Iraqi command said that the 9th Division, which initiated the northern assault was done as its armor was not suitable for the current street fights. Another army division, the 16th, is now operating in the city joining the Golden Division and Interior Ministry forces. Together they are aiming for the Tigris River. They will then take on the Old City where the police got caught up in March, which caused the new northern offensive.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 205-206 May 9-10 2017

Comparison of maps 5/6/17 vs 5/9/17 shows recent advances in northwest Mosul (Ninewa Media)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) moved further into northwest Mosul. On May 9, the Tammuz 30 neighborhood was freed, while the Harmat 2 and 3, and July 17 areas were under attack. On May 10, Harmat 3 and Maamil were liberated, and Islah al-Zirahi and Hawi Kanisa were assaulted. General Mahdi Abbas Abdallah of the Rapid Reaction Division said that Islamic State fighters were attempting to flee the city. On the other hand, the Army Chief of Staff General Othman al-Ghanami predicted that the Mosul campaign would be over before the start of Ramadan. Starting in March the battle reached a turning point. While the Golden Division was pushing through the center of West Mosul, the Interior Ministry’s forces were stuck in the Old City with no real movement. That forced a change in strategy with the army’s 9th Division backed by police units entering the northern section of the city. That was supposed to happen much earlier, but the Iraqis still have problems coordinating all their forces due to the multiple commands they operate under. The Islamic State had no real defenses in the north allowing the new line of attack to quickly advance. Now the north is largely freed and that front has connected with the Golden Division that has taken the center. Together they are now moving towards the Tigris River to take the last section of West Mosul in the east. Mosul has been the most intense urban warfare the government forces have faced, and it will be their largest victory as well when it’s all over.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Iraq Security Trends Jan 2016-Apr 2017

Today violence is down across most of Iraq. That’s due to the Battle for Mosul, which has concentrated almost all of the death and destruction to Ninewa. Many Islamic State fighters escaped the encirclement of the city however, and the group still controls territory in western Anbar and southern Kirkuk. The organization is also rebuilding in Diyala and Salahaddin. Despite that, the number of security incidents is down in all provinces save Ninewa.

2,677 Killed and 1,742 Wounded In Iraq April 2017

Violence was down in Iraq in April 2017 compared to March. That was due to a lull in fighting in Mosul, which is driving the security situation across the country.

There were 562 security incidents reported in the press in April, the lowest amount of the year. That was down from 712 in January, 617 in February, and 715 in March.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 203-204 May 7-8 2017

Red areas show where Iraqi forces have recently moved into in northern west Mosul (Ninewa Media)

The new thrust into northwest Mosul resulted in more victories for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). On May 7, Harmat Thaniya, Tammuz 30 and Wadi Akab were attacked, and there was a second day of fighting in the Tammuz 17 neighborhood with more in Harmat 1 and Mesherfa that were freed the day before. The Islamic State often re-infiltrates into areas, so that could be expected. On May 8, Wadi Akab, Ghanem al-Sayid, and Shuqaq al-Harmat were liberated, and Tammuz 17 was still being fought over. More Iraqi units were being shifted from the center of the city to the north to push the advance further. The two Tammuz neighborhoods was where the Islamic State was constructing a defensive line to confront this new line of attack. The insurgents have done most of their fighting with small units. Those were all in the center of the city. This new front spreads out IS’s forces, which is why the ISF have been able to move forward so quickly.

Monday, May 8, 2017

How The Islamic State Has Fought The Battle For Mosul, Interview With Horizon Client Access’ Alex Mello

The battle for Mosul is in its sixth month. It is proving to be the most intense campaign of the entire war against the Islamic State in Iraq. That’s in part because the insurgents have changed their defenses from previous fights like in Fallujah and Ramadi. Recently the CTC Sentinel published an article “Defeat By Annihilation: Mobility And Attrition In The Islamic State’s Defense Of Mosul” detailing how the militants have fought in the city. This is an interview with one of the authors Alex Mello who is an Iraq security analyst at Horizon Client Access. Musings On Iraq first interviewed Mello back in 2014 about the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. He can be followed on Twitter @AlexMello02.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

Mosul Campaign Day 202, May 6, 2017

Families taking boats across the Tigris from west to east Mosul. Flooding has taken down the one pontoon bridge across the river in the city (Reuters)

The new northern thrust into west Mosul paid more dividends. The last section of the Mesherfa neighborhood was freed, along with Kanisa and Harmat 1. There were reports of fighting going on in some of the recently liberated areas. That is normal as the Islamic State often retreats and then re-infiltrates into a sector of the city. On April 28, the chief of staff of the army General Osman al-Ghanami said that the battle for Mosul would be over in three weeks. On May 6, he upped that to just a few days. This is common Iraqi propaganda. The War Media Cell told the press that the campaign was going according to plan and that losses had been within expected limits. It went on to attack social media claiming that lies and fabrications were being spread about the battle. The Iraqi military has been increasingly defensive about any criticism of its work. The deputy head of the security committee in parliament said that the Islamic State’s defenses were broken in northwestern Mosul leading to a much quicker advance. The new advance into northern Iraq has stretched the Islamic State’s forces. For most of the fight it has relied upon relatively small units to hold up the Iraqi forces. Now its forces are spread between both the center and northern section of the city. The Iraqis could be making even faster progress if they could coordinate better and attack along all fronts at the same time. Right now all the movement is in the north and there is little going on in the center and Old City in the east.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 201, May 5, 2017

Comparison of Mosul 5/4/17 vs 5/5/17 showing the new thrust by the Iraqi forces into the northern section of the city (Ninewa Media)

The spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command General Yahya Rasool told the press that the new northern attack upon Mosul caught the Islamic State off guard. The insurgents were not able to build adequate defenses, which has led to a swift advance. This is being made by the 9th Division and units from the Rapid Reaction Division and Federal Police. The police were fighting in Harmat, which was declared freed the day before. In the center of west Mosul, the Federal Police were also pushing into Zinjali by the Old City. The Iraqis originally claimed this new offensive started on May 1, but that now appears to not have occurred and was another example of Iraqi propaganda and exaggeration. The goal is to cut through the north and reach the Tigris River. The northern front will then connect with the Iraqi forces in the center, and then take the Old City at the end.

Review The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid

Bardenwerper, Will, The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid , Scribner, 2017   Wh...