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.

In April there was a lull in fighting in Mosul as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) became stuck in the Old City neighborhood in eastern West Mosul along the Tigris River. The result was a dip in security incidents across the country. In April, there was an average of 18.7 incidents per day. That was the lowest amount since 18.5 in August 2016. Violence was going down through the first half of 2016 starting at 23.3 incidents per day in January before reaching a low of 17.1 in July. Things were slowly picking back up when the Battle for Mosul began in October, driving up the overall statistics.

Anbar is one of three provinces where the Islamic State is picking up its operations. It still controls the western section of the governorate along the Syrian border. The number of incidents is still relatively low however with just 1.3 per day in April. Attacks have stayed at that level since July 2016. What is worrying the local government is the persistence of car and suicide bombings, and recently the other types of incidents have changed as well to medium sized attacks on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

Baghdad once drove the security situation in the entire country. Since the Mosul campaign started however, incidents in the capital have dropped to the lowest level in years. In January 2016, there were an average of 11.6 incidents per day. After that there was a steady decline with a small uptick in the summer before the number of attacks went back down until reaching just 3.3 in April. Security has improved to the point that the ISF have begun taking down blast barriers and checkpoints in certain sections of central Baghdad. The Islamic State still has a presence in the small villages in the outer southern and northern sections of the governorate however, which are connected to networks in Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin.

Diyala is the second area where the Islamic State is rebuilding. Attacks there have gone up and down since the start of 2016. April was one of those spikes going from an average of 1.0 incidents per day in March to 1.7 in April. Like Anbar the nature of attacks has also changed. IS has continuously launched mass casualty bombings in the province every month, but it has now started attacks upon the ISF as well. In 2014, the Badr organization, which runs the provincial government and security forces claimed it was free of the Islamic State, but it has never lost its bases in areas like the Hamrin Mountains, Abu Saida, and others. IS fighters are now moving into those areas from Kirkuk.

Despite IS controlling territory in Kirkuk violence there is very low. From December 2016 to April 2017 there has been less than one incident per day. In April there was an average of just 0.7. The provincial government constantly asks for Baghdad to liberate Hawija, but that won’t happen until Mosul is freed. Hawija is constantly blamed as a source of instability in the neighboring provinces of Diyala and Salahaddin showing that, while it is not a direct threat to Kirkuk, it is destabilizing central Iraq.

Ninewa is obviously the center of fighting in the country now because of Mosul. Since the campaign started in October the number of incidents has gone from 5.0 that month to 14.6 in March. In April that dipped to 9.8 as the battle became stalemated in central Mosul.

Salahaddin is the third governorate where IS is rebuilding. The border region with Diyala and the rural-desert region around Samarra are where the insurgents are still active. They have also infiltrated back into the Tikrit district. The number of incidents continues to fluctuate throughout 2016-2017. Since February 2017 there has just been around 1 incident per day.

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