Workers removing explosives from Mosul (Reuters)
Removing rubble from west Mosul’s Old City (Reuters)
Shopping in an east Mosul market (Reuters)
Islamic State elements continued to be discovered, killed, and carry out attacks in Mosul. A gunman opened fire on the Victory bridge, the only connection between the two sides of the city leaving two dead and three wounded. The police claimed they killed 47 IS members since the city was liberated at the start of July, along with finding hundreds of weapons and explosives. These attacks, while low level, show that Mosul, especially the western half is still not secure. The number of IS elements appears to be small, but they are still spreading fear. The attacks are a major reason why many people have not returned or are leaving.
There was a shootout between two Hashd factions in east Mosul. The Badr and Khorasani brigades got into an argument over distributing humanitarian aid in the Samoud neighborhood. That escalated to gunfire with three Hashd being wounded. This is the second time a disagreement between Hashd forces has led to violence. There are dozens of different security forces operating in the city. Many of these are rivals of each other, highlighted by this incident. This is the reason why Mosul and Hashd officials have called security “chaotic.” There are too many units with no coordination or leadership.
Canada is going to help with securing Mosul. It announced that 20 police will be heading to the city in the coming weeks and stay until 2019. They will likely act as advisers. The problem is that there are hardly any police in Mosul, which is the reason why there are so many different forces are operating there. The Canadians might be trainers as well as Baghdad wants to rebuild the Ninewa police.
The Iraqi forces are ready for the Tal Afar campaign to begin, but there was some controversy over the Americans’ role. First, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command General Yahya Rasool told the press that the army had surrounded the district and cut off IS supply lines to Syria, something the Hashd said they had done back in 2016. General Tali Shaghati of the Golden Division was the latest to predict that Tal Afar would be easy. Combat won’t be half as hard as Mosul, but the Islamic State hasn’t lost its willingness to fight. According to Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s Jawad Talabawi, President Barzani pushed the U.S. to pressure Baghdad to exclude the Hashd from the Tal Afar operation. That was denied by Hashd leader Hashim Moussawi who said that any stories about the Hashd not participating were only personal opinions and did not represent the force. Finally, 70 U.S. advisers arrived at the Kahriz base to assist with the upcoming battle. There was also a story that the Americans were building a base, but that might have been about the same location. Talabawi’s comments were the latest by pro-Iran forces to discredit the U.S. presence in Iraq. Earlier Sayid Shuhada claimed that the American air strikes hit them along the Iraq-Syrian border, which if did occur didn’t happen in Iraq but in Syria. Now Asaib Ahl Al-Haq issued a statement that Washington is blocking Hashd from military operations. Politicians have also voiced concerns about the U.S. constructing a base. This goes along with other stories that the U.S. is supporting the Islamic State. Unfortunately, these stories get wide coverage within Iraq and are believed by many people. As for Tal Afar, there were reports that the Iraqi forces were ready for at the end of July, but those were untrue. Not all the Hashd, army and police forces were in place by then. Now it appears that the units are just waiting for the order to go.
Al Jazeera talked about how IS used government workers in the two years it controlled Mosul. The militants tried to employ state employees when it took over the city in the summer of 2014. The top administration was replaced by IS members, but the rest of the positions were left to the existing workforce. The insurgents threatened to kill those that didn’t continue with their jobs. The situation was helped in part by Baghdad paying the salaries of their employees. IS shaped the administration to benefit itself. For instance, IS neighborhoods and buildings got 24 hours of power, while the rest of the city had frequent blackouts. Within a year, the Islamic State had gotten stricter. It banned smoking, mobile phones, satellite dishes. There was an army of informers to find people who broke these rules. In July 2015, Baghdad cut off payments to its workers. IS took up the task but at lower wages. After the city was liberated, many civil employees have gone back to work. Most of them are not getting paid nor supplies, leading to growing resentment against the government. They continue to work to serve their community, but like many attempting to put the city back together they feel that Baghdad has done little to help.
Human Rights Watch reported that 15 lawyers working in the terrorism court in Qaraqosh had arrest warrants issued for them because they worked for the IS judicial system. Six of the attorneys have been arrested. One observer believed this was done to undermine the defense of IS suspects before the judiciary. Another reason might be the haphazard way in which the government has gone after those considered collaborators with the Islamic State.
Hundreds of people are making trips back and forth throughout Ninewa. The total number of displaced (IDPs) has plateaued, but is still slowly rising. On June 29, when there was still major combat going on in Mosul there were 819,534 IDPs in the governorate. That reached a high of 846,252 on July 20. The figures took a dip afterward before climbing back up to 839,490 by August 10. 244,644 people have also returned to their home areas. The United Nations has pointed out that figure is complicated by the growing number of people going through a second displacement. For example, from August 4-7, 809 families arrived in camps. The majority of those were in camps before, went back to Mosul to stay with relatives or rent a house, but then left again because they ran out of money. This is now happening in other sections of Ninewa as well as 31 families went through the same thing in Zummar and Wana before heading back to camps. 100 families also arrived from Tal Afar fearing the upcoming battle for the district. During that same period 532 families left camps. Most of those head to east Mosul, but could share the fate of the recent camp arrivals. Much has been made of the recovery going on in east Mosul. One thing is that there are few opportunities. People are going to markets for instance, but most are using credit or their savings. Few if any of the government workers who are at their jobs are receiving salaries. At the same time, the increasing demand for housing is doubling, sometimes tripling rents, which eventually drive people out because they can’t find employment to cover the bills. As the state is the main employer and it has little money due to low oil prices there may be no solution to this dilemma anytime soon.
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Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Lawyers Arrested for Work in ISIS Courts,” 8/10/17
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- “Paramilitary official says troops not to take part in Tal Afar battle,” Iraqi News, 8/10/17
Shafaaq News, “Canada sends police to Mosul,” 8/10/17
- “Injuries in a clash between Khorasan and Badr fighters in Mosul,” 8/10/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 10 August 2017,” 8/10/17
- “UNHCR Iraq steps up help to families in Mosul,” 8/10/17
Wardana, “A US force stationed at the Kahriz base west of Mosul,” 8/10/17