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.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 200, May 4, 2017


The New York Times had a great article on the decision behind the new offensive in northwest Mosul. In mid-April Prime Minister Haider Abadi held a conference with his commanders in Hamam al-Alil. The premier argued that the operation was dragging out, and that only benefited the Islamic State, therefore a change was needed. The officers then debated who should be responsible for the new thrust, since most of their forces had been involved in the fight since the start, and had suffered heavy losses as a result. Two main issues were brought up. First, was that the army had not taken part in any of the fighting in west Mosul, only the Golden Division, Rapid Reaction Division, and Federal Police had. Second, some believed the Federal Police were not holding up their responsibilities as they have been stuck in the Old City for two months now. Finally, the decision was made that the army’s 9th Division would attack the city from the north. Previously it had been working with the Hashd’s Al-Abbas Division in clearing the Badush district. After that was accomplished in April it simply sat outside the city. The plan is to push into Mosul from the north and south to spread out the Islamic State’s fighters. The Old City will be freed last. While the Iraqis have improved, it seems that they still have work to do in coordinating their forces. A lot of that has to do with the divided command the Iraqi forces (ISF) fight under. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division answer to the Interior Ministry, the army to the Defense Ministry, the Golden Division is a separate entity, which is directly under the prime minister, and the Hashd are a confederation of separate units. This caused problems in east Mosul when the Golden Division was told to attack the city by itself because the army hadn’t caught up, and then when it finally arrived, there was a lack of cooperation initially. These issues still need to be worked out as the army could have attacked Mosul long ago.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 199, May 3, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) are still stuck in the Old City district of west Mosul. The Rapid Reaction Division and Federal Police attacked the Maidan neighborhood. The police were said to have taken some streets in the Old City. The Joint Operations Command also claimed that a new push was being planned into the district. The ISF are always talking about a new offensive to take the Old City however. That area was attacked in March, and little headway has been made since then.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 198, May 2, 2017


The Golden Division and Rapid Reaction forces are now attacking Mosul from a new direction, the northwest in 17 Tammuz (July 17) and Rafai neighborhoods. The Golden Division is also fighting over the Zangili neighborhood which is northwest of the Old City (not marked on map) (Institute for the Study of War)

The major fighting in Mosul was on the new front in the northwest. The Golden Division and Rapid Reaction Division were attacking the July 17, Mesherfa, Najar and the Rifai neighborhoods. The Golden Division was also said to have seized large parts of the Zinjali area to the northwest of the Old City. The Federal Police were battling in the Old City, but that was still stalemated. The goal remains to liberate the rest of west Mosul, and then tackle the Old City at the end because the police have proven not up to the task.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 197, May 1, 2017


The Iraqi forces (ISF) opened a new front in the Battle of Mosul. Over the weekend the Golden Division and Rapid Reaction Division (RRD) shifted forces from the center and east sections of west Mosul to the Badush district to the northwest of the city. On May 1, the RRD attacked the Haramat and July 17 neighborhoods from this new position. The Golden Division was still fighting over Zinjali, while the Federal Police were battling in Bab al-Jadid and Bab al-Baid in the Old City. The new operation fits in with the overall campaign plan for the police to hold down Islamic State fighters in the Old City while the rest of Mosul is liberated.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 196, Apr 30, 2017


The Iraqis have moved their forces for a new assault on west Mosul. Elements of the Golden Division have shifted to the Badush district northwest of the city to link up with the 9th Division and the Hashd’s Al-Abbas Division that have been there for a few weeks now. They seized the western gate to Mosul, and are planning to attack four neighborhoods from that direction. The Defense Ministry estimated that just 35% of the city remained under Islamic State control. The plan for the battle remains the same. The Golden Division oversees freeing of most the city, while the police are holding down Islamic State fighters in the Old City. The 9th Division and Hashd were supposed to have opened a northwest front in Mosul weeks ago, but halted outside of the city instead. They are finally joining the fight in the city.

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.

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 ...