Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 133, Feb 27, 2017


Iraqi forces are fighting over the Mosul neighborhoods just north of the Ghazlani Camp and Mosul Airport

The Iraqi forces continued to fight over south Mosul. Hawl al-Josaq north of the Mosul Airport and Tal Ruman on the northwest perimeter of the city were declared freed by the police forces and the 9th Division respectively. Those two neighborhoods were said to have been liberated on February 24. Dandan next to Hawl al-Josaq along the Tigris River was still contested after the Iraqi Forces (ISF) said they took it on February 25. After capturing Mosul Airport the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division have moved up the bank of the Tigris to secure the western side of the Fourth Bridge. This is where the ISF plan on building a pontoon bridge across the river. That’s being done by the 310th Engineering Company. It’s common to have the ISF say a place has been taken multiple times. Sometimes this is propaganda, sometimes its because a unit has moved through an area calling it freed, but then follow up forces have to actually check to make sure all the Islamic State fighters have been rooted out. Other times there is re-infiltration.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Violence In Iraq Feb 15-21, 2017


Violence remained high in Iraq as the Mosul campaign continued. There were a total of 145 security incidents reported in the press. Ninewa obviously had the most with 75, followed by 42 in Baghdad, 7 in Diyala, 6 in Salahaddin, 5 in Anbar, 4 in Kirkuk, 3 in Basra, 2 in Kurdistan, and 1 in an unknown location.

Those led to 381 dead and 505 wounded. Ninewa suffered 195 killed, Baghdad had 111, Kurdistan 42, Kirkuk 11, Salahaddin 9, Anbar and Diyala 5 each, 2 in an unknown location, and 1in Basra.

Mosul Campaign Day 132, Feb 26, 2017


Some new areas inside and out of south Mosul were freed. On February 25 the Rapid Reaction Division said it liberated Danadan, which is north of the Mosul Airport and along the Tigris River. On February 26, the Federal Police secured the Harakiyat Ibrahimiya area, which the 9th Division had originally gone through on February 19. The Rapid Reaction and Golden Divisions also took Tayaran and Mamun respectively that are to the west of the Ghazlani camp. The Iraqi forces (ISF) then moved into the Mansour, Shuhada, and Dawas neighborhoods. The ISF were also attempting to secure the area around the Fourth Bridge so that a pontoon bridge can be constructed there across the Tigris River.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

 
I was quoted in “Iraqi Kurdistan fears Maliki returning to power” by Paul Iddon in Al Araby. I did an interview with Radio Sputnik World Service from Moscow on the Trump administration's Iraq policy. I was cited in "Bataille de Mossoul: 4 Semaines de Preparation Intensive Avant L'Assaut Sur L'Ouest De La Ville Declenche Dimanche" by France Soir.

Mosul Campaign Day 131, Feb 25, 2017


(Medecins Sans Frontieres)

As the Iraqi forces (ISF) moved into south Mosul itself their advance slowed down. In the rural villages in the lead up to Mosul there was not much resistance, but now that the city has been reached IS is fighting back with its usual mix of mortars, snipers, drones, and car bombs. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi of the Golden Division said that movement was very slow.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 130, Feb 24, 2017


In the last two days the police and armor from the 9th Division moved out of Abu Saif in the south, took the town of Yarmouk. The Golden Div joined in and together they have freed the Mosul Airport, Ghazalni Camp, and entered Tel Ruman, Mamun, Wadi Hajar, Hawl al-Josaq and Dandan. (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

February 24 the Iraqi forces (ISF) secured the Mosul airport and Ghazlani camp and headed north into the city itself. The Golden Division secured Ghazlani, while the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division, supported by armor of the 9th Division did the same for Mosul airport. Large numbers of Islamic State fighters surrendered to the police at the airfield, something that has not really been reported before. This could point to the insurgents’ morale breaking. The Golden Division then moved into the Maamun Wadi Hajar neighborhoods to the northwest of Ghazlani. The two police units went for Hawl al-Josaq and Dandan, which are directly north of the airport, freeing the latter. The army’s 9th Division and the Hashd’s Al Abbas Division took Tal Ruman that is to the east of Maamun. The ISF were using bulldozers to make new roadways to avoid the main thoroughfares, which have been laced with IEDs. Moving to the outskirts of the city was relatively easy, but now the real fight is beginning as the ISF enter the Mosul itself.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 129, Feb 23, 2017


Iraqi police forces moving on Mosul airport (Reuters)
On February 23 the Iraqi forces (ISF) attacked Mosul airport and the Ghazlani base next door. First the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division set off from Abu Saif and took the town of Yarmouk, and then attacked Mosul airport, finding little resistance. Tanks from the army’s 9th Division supported them. On a separate axis, the Golden Division joined by the Al-Abbas Division of the Hashd took the town of Tal Rayan outside of Mosul that the Islamic State had been using as a sniper and mortar base, and then moved onto the Ghazlani base attacking it from two directions. ISF officers and several reporters declared the airport free, but the Joint Operations Command announced only 50% was under control. The Operations Command also added that 85% of Ghazlani was in government hands.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 128, Feb 22, 2017


The Iraqi forces’ (ISF) statements either by officers or even official ones have become so unreliable that they cannot be trusted unless pictures are posted on social media or a western reporter confirms them. For example, on February 20 a police major told Bas News that the Rapid Reaction Division was attacking the Ghazlani camp on the outskirts of southern Mosul. On February 21, a source told AIN that the camp had been liberated. February 22, the Joint Operations Command officially announced that the Rapid Reaction Division and Federal Police were assaulting the facility, and moving onto the Mosul airport as well. In fact, they did not do either of those until February 23. The ISF has a poor record on reporting on the facts of their operations. Towns have been declared freed before the ISF even arrive, or when they are first attacked, or when there is still shooting going on. This is due to the government’s victory narrative that the ISF are constantly winning. That explains the above statements and others like them since the war started in 2014. The problem is the Iraqi forces are advancing and they are winning yet they can’t stop exaggerating. Ghazlani is going to be taken, so why say it is before it actually happens?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 127, Feb 21, 2017


As happens too many times Iraqi propaganda got ahead of what was happening on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State. Yesterday the Federal Police announced that they and the Rapid Reaction Division had taken the town of Abu Saif, which is just outside the southern tip of Mosul. In fact, fighting continued there into the next day February 21 as insurgents were hiding in tunnels, before it was declared freed once again, although the Islamic State still held a cement factory just outside of town. The two police units were consolidating their position around Abu Saif building berms to protect against car bombs. By the end of the day, the police claimed they had taken the Ghazlani army base, reached the outskirts of the airport, and IS had abandoned it due to Iraqi artillery fire. These may all be exaggerations by the Iraqi forces (ISF) as well. Earlier the police said they would take the town of Yarmouk next to Abu Saif and then head towards Ghazlani and the airport.
(Medecins Sans Frontieres)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 126, Feb 20, 2017


(Institute for the Study of War)
The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued their advance on the second day of the new campaign for Mosul. Six villages were freed. That included Abu Saif, which is the high ground overlooking part of south Mosul. Another was Sahaji, which cut the road from Mosul to Tal Afar. The Federal Police and Rapid Response Division also began attacking the Ghazlani army base, which is next to the Mosul airport. The government’s media cell announced that this marked the end of the first stage of operations. Next will be taking the airport and then moving into the city itself.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 125, Feb 19, 2017


On the morning of February 19 Prime Minister Haider Abadi went on state television to announce the start of the operation to take west Mosul. The day before the Iraqi air force dropped flyers over the city telling people their liberation as coming. The Federal Police also went on the offensive to seize four villages to secure their jump off spots for the new campaign. There was just under a month gap between freeing east Mosul and attacking the west. That time was necessary to rearm and reposition forces.

The first stage of the new operation has three main goals. One is for the Federal Police to take Abu Saif, which is the high ground overlooking south Mosul. The Rapid Response Division is heading for the Ghazlani military base, which is next to the Mosul airport in the southern section of the city. Their ultimate goal is to seize the airport itself. The Islamic State has tried to destroy the facilities there so they cannot be used. Once it is secured army engineers, likely with U.S. coalition support, are going to move in and try to make repairs as quickly as possible to the runways to allow them to be used to fly in supplies for the battle. All together these would give the ISF a vantage point over the entire southern section of the city, as well as staging areas for moving forward. A third thrust is being made by the army’s 9th Division and the Hashd’s Al-Abbas Division towards the southwestern section of Mosul. At a later time, the Golden Division and other units are expected to cross the Tigris River using pontoon bridges provided by the Americans. Some of those have been sent to the Palestine neighborhood in southern Mosul. That would make the militants fight on two fronts the south and the east, stretching their manpower and resources.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 124, Feb 18, 2017


UPDATE: Prime Minister Abadi at around 7:30 am on February 19 announced that the assault on west Mosul has begun.

The Iraqi press reported three attacks on east Mosul. A drone strike and rockets on two neighborhoods killed a total of 7 people and wounded 19. A suicide bomber was also killed. The media has been covering these incidents less and less in recent days. That could because of the government, which has looked down on negative reporting on the war and tried to limit it.

The Islamic State launched another major assault upon the Hashd lines in the Tal Afar district. The Hashd have claimed these are some of the largest attacks they have seen. The Iraqi forces (ISF) said that the insurgents were trying to breakthrough to Syria. They may also be trying to get to Baaj, which is to the west of Tal Afar where IS leadership has been said to be staying at.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 123, Feb 17, 2017


The Islamic State made another attack upon the Hashd in western Ninewa. This time they assaulted the area around Ain Hassan.

The press is reporting less on the insurgents’ attacks inside Mosul. After the huge increase in such incidents over the last month the drop in coverage may be due to government pressure on the media. Baghdad does not like negative news about the war and security and has gone after sources as a result. Previously they ended embedded reporters in the Mosul battle, and said they would not allow journalists near the frontlines when west Mosul is attacked.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Violence In Iraq Feb 8-14, 2017


There was an increase in violence in Iraq during the second week of February because of Islamic State attacks in Mosul. There were a total of 163 incidents recorded, the most since the second week of January. Ninewa had the most with 95, Baghdad had 30, Basra 10, Diyala 9, Anbar 8, Salahaddin 6, and Kirkuk 5.

Mosul Campaign Day 122, Feb 16, 2017


There were several Islamic State attacks upon east Mosul, while the Iraqi forces (ISF) were hunting down Islamic State sleeper cells. A drone hit Rashidiya in the north of the city wounding three people. Rockets hit two other neighborhoods leaving 4 dead and 12 injured. A suicide bomber was killed before he could set off his device, while another was arrested near a mosque. In the outer east three neighborhoods were closed off as the ISF conducted raids and searches looking for IS fighters. A few days ago an Iraqi general said it would take 30 days to hunt down all the sleeper cells in east Mosul. That’s yet to be seen. In the meantime IS has picked up its attacks upon the liberated half of the city with not only indirect fire, but suicide and car bombs and infiltrations as well.

IS also attacked the Hashd in the Tal Afar district out in the west. Insurgents continue to throw themselves against the Hashd in that western area with nothing to show for it except a lot of dead men.

There are huge shortages in west Mosul. Food is very scarce, but the Islamists are now demanding that the residents donate what they have or be punished. It has been reported that the IS fighters are facing the same deprivations as the public in the half of the city under its control, which explains this new policy.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a new report on abuses by the Hashd southwest of Mosul. It talked with people from five villages and used satellite photos to accuse the Iraqi forces of looting and destroying homes. 6 people from the town of Ashwa were interviewed. They said the village was freed by elements of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Ali Akhbar Brigades. They told all the residents to leave and go to displaced camps in the south. The Iraqi forces then incorporated the town into a large security zone with a berm and ditches. Satellite imagery showed that from December 2016 to February 2017 140 buildings were destroyed with explosives, earth moving machinery, and fire. HRW talked with three residents of Mashirafat al-Jisr next to Ashwa. One resident said that members of Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada arrived in the town and told people to go to camps in the south. A week later some people returned and found their houses burned and looted. During that time Asaib Ahl Al-Haq was in charge of Mashirafat al-Jisr. Satellites showed that 90% of the buildings in the village were burned. Similarly, when the Hashd freed Khoytlab all the civilians left and have not returned since. From December to February 110 buildings were damaged using explosives, machinery and fire. Finally, 6 people from Qaraqosh told HRW that their houses had been looted and burned by government forces, which consisted of the Christian Ninewa Plains Protection Units, elements of the army’s 9th Division, and federal and regular police. 3 people said they returned to the town in October after it had been liberated and found no damage to their property. When they went back again in November and January they found that everything had been taken. Finally, in Khidir residents complained that Hashd forces including members of the Babylon Brigades had looted the town. HRW asked the Hashd to comment on their accusations and were told that all the damage was done either during the fighting or afterward due to IS booby-traps. Satellite photos and residents disputed those claims. Previous HRW reports have documented other incidents by the Hashd in Ninewa such as beating civilians, summary executions of suspected IS members, and arbitrary arrests. These have been carried out by Shiite, Sunni, and Christian forces showing that these were not sectarian incidents. Rather they point to the unprofessionalism and lack of discipline of the Hashd and their propensity for abuses. Elements of the ISF may have misbehaved as well in Qaraqosh.

The Associated Press talked with a family that had lost a son who was an army officer to the fighting in east Mosul in December. They said that they were proud of their son and his sacrifice, but that they felt disrespected by the government who had not officially recognized his death. That’s because Baghdad does not release casualty figures to keep up morale.

The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development has been touring the districts of east Mosul. In Karama on the eastern edge of the city it found no running water with people having to drill holes in pipes to access some. There were no aid or government agencies present. Markets were open, but people had little cash and no jobs. In Tahrir in the northeast residents were also tapping into pipes for water, but some was also being trucked in. There were some aid groups providing food. Like Karama there were also markets selling goods, but people were having a hard time buying anything. These issues are likely facing many more parts of he city.

Several hospitals in Irbil were set aside to care for the wounded from the Mosul campaign, and were overwhelmed in the process. An official from the Irbil General Health Directorate told Rudaw that around 14,000 civilians and members of the ISF were treated in Irbil, with a similar number suffering from illnesses due to a lack of health services. Caring for those people used up 8 months of medicine in just 2 months. Kurdish officials criticized Baghdad for not providing any assistance. This has implications for the future as more people are going to be sent to Irbil when west Mosul is attacked. They may push the health care in the city to the breaking point.

The number of people returning to their homes in Ninewa has gone up recently, but the aggregate figures for displaced went up in the last few days. The International Organization for Migration counted a total of 160,302 people registered with the government and aid agencies on February 16. That was up from 152,448 on February 12, for an increase of 7,854. One cause for that was the increase in IS shelling of east Mosul, which the United Nations reported was up 25% from the previous week. At the same time, going back to the start of the month there were 161,178 displaced highlighting the fact that there is a constant move of people back and forth leaving and going back to their homes. There have been 57,462 returns from camps since the Mosul campaign started in October 2016. These figures do not include all the people that moved around within east Mosul during the fighting, and never registered.

Al Monitor talked with people in displaced camps who wanted to return. They have to put in a form with the authorities, have the ISF check that their area is cleared, and then get approval before they can depart. One man said he wanted out of the camp because life was hard there and there were no jobs. He said his neighborhood in Mosul had been freed so he didn’t know why he should stay in the camp. A woman said her relatives had gone back to their area and found that their homes were looted so she wanted to secure her property. People knew that there were shortages of electricity, health care, and drinking water in east Mosul, but that it was better to be in their own homes rather than staying in tents in a camp. Despite the difficulties it is only natural for people to want to be in their houses. As the IOM report showed more and more people are leaving these camps.

SOURCES

Abdullah, Dilshad, “Displaced Iraqis leave camps as smoke clears in east Mosul,” Al Monitor, 2/15/17

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, “Mosul Neighborhood Snapshot: Al Karamah – February 9, 2017,” 2/9/17
- “Mosul Neighborhood Snapshot: Al Tahrir – February 9, 2017,” 2/9/17

Buratha News, "45th Brigade of popular crowd repels Daesh west of Tal Afar," 2/16/17

George, Susannah, “A family mourns son lost to fighting IS in Iraq’s Mosul,” Associated Press, 2/16/17

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Executions by Government-Backed Militia,” 12/18/16
- “Iraq: Looting, Destruction by Forces Fighting ISIS,” 2/16/17
- “Iraq: Men Fleeing Mosul Held in Secret,” 2/2/17
- “Iraq: Militias Held, Beat Villagers,” 11/20/16

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #16 – Mosul Operations From 17 October to 16 February,” 2/16/17

Al Jazeera, “Thousands return to Iraq’s Mosul as fighting continues,” 2/16/17

NINA, "Army Kills A Suicide Bomber And Arrests Another One In Mosul," 2/16/17
- "Daesh Bombarded A Popular Market East Of Mosul," 2/16/17
- "Daesh Targets A Secondary School For Girls East Of Mosul," 2/16/17

Rudaw, “28,000 injured from Mosul strains Erbil hospitals, causing shortages,” 2/18/17

Shafaaq News, "A raid on three neighborhoods of east Mosul in search of wanted," 2/16/17

Al Sumaria, “Daesh forcing people of western Mosul to feed their combatants,” 2/16/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 16 February 2017,” 2/16/17


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 121, Feb 15, 2017


The Islamic State is intensifying its attacks upon liberated west Mosul. On February 15 a 14-year-old suicide bomber was arrested in the Nur neighborhood, while another set off his device in a market in Zahra leaving 10 dead and wounding 3. A drone strike hit the Nabi Younis area killing 3 and wounding 4. The assaults have grown so bad that the United Nations announced that it ceased work in the city until it was more secure. A Police colonel told Reuters that all the main Iraqi (ISF) units were on the bank of the Tigris preparing for the assault on the western half of the city leaving the rest under the control of a hodgepodge of units from some army forces, to police to new local Hashd. The colonel did not think that was enough to secure the eastern side. The halting of U.N. work is a major setback for the city as there is already a lack of services, and the government and aid agencies do not have a large presence in Mosul. The problem of holding east Mosul is also likely delaying the assault on the west, as Baghdad has to figure out how it will deal with the liberated areas before it can take on more.

The intensity of IS attacks was shown in the weekly figures compiled by Musings On Iraq using over 40 sources, mostly Iraqi newspapers. During the second week of February 211 people were killed in east Mosul by drones, mortars, rockets, suicide bombers, and car bombs. The insurgents executed another 99 civilians. Those were the highest casualty figures since the third week of January when there was still major combat going on to take the city.

IS was active in other areas as well. They drowned 13 people in Mosul on charges of helping the Iraqi forces. 2 suicide bombers also hit a checkpoint in Tal Abta west of Mosul killing 5 Hashd and wounding more.

Getting much less coverage is the casualties caused by ISF shelling of west Mosul. 7 civilians were killed and 6 wounded when a market was hit by Iraqi artillery. Every day the Iraqis are firing on the western side, but because it is under IS control casualties are rarely reported.

The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development released a report on the Intisar neighborhood in southeast Mosul. The group found that there was no drinking water available in the area forcing people to dig holes in pipes. There were markets open selling food, bottled water, and other goods, but the problem was residents didn’t have much cash and there were no jobs. There were no aid groups or government agencies operating in Intisar to help civilians either. This is likely the situation in many parts of east Mosul. Life has returned, and hundreds of people are heading back, but there is still violence, and there is no real rebuilding going on beyond what regular citizens can do on their own.

The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande visited two displaced camps taking in people from Mosul and expressed her concerns about the coming assault upon west Mosul. She was worried that taking the other half of the city would create more humanitarian issues than the west did. The U.N. is afraid that more people will be displaced, and that might overwhelm the camps and hospitals set up to assist them. The hospitals in Irbil that were set up to take in wounded ISF and civilians from east Mosul for example, were overflowing with patients and running low on supplies. There has been no news as to whether they were able to re-fill their stocks of medicines, etc. to take on another huge wave of people.

Agence France Presse called people in IS occupied west Mosul who are having a far worse time than the east. A mother said that her family was trying to stock up on supplies in anticipation of the coming battle, but they didn’t have much to save. She said that her family was reduced to eating only once a day because they had such little food. Most stores in the west are empty, and those that do have goods are selling them for exorbitant prices. Water, heating and cooking fuel, and electricity are in very short supply as well. One man said he was burning old clothes because he had no gas for his furnace or stove. Insurgents are searching homes looking for people with cell phones that they suspect are being used to pass on information to the government. Those caught with them are being executed. Many homes along the Tigris have been taken over by the Islamists to be turned into fighting positions. IS is also digging more tunnels and carving out holes in walls between buildings to facilitate the movement of their men so they wouldn’t be exposed to overhead observation or air strikes. The U.N. and others have warned that west Mosul is suffering a humanitarian crisis and these interviews were more evidence of that.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "2 IS suicide bombers kill, wound members of al-Hashd al-Shaabi near Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/15/17

Agence France Presse, “West Mosul easting once a day and bracing for worse,” 2/15/17

Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, “Mosul Neighborhood Snapshot: Al Intisar – February 9, 2017,” 2/9/17

Bas News, "MOSUL: 14-year-old Suicide Bomber Captured in Time," 2/15/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Jan. 15, 2017,” 2/15/17

Janssen, Bram, “UN Temporarily Pausing Aid to Eastern Mosul Due to Security,” Associated Press, 2/15/17

Kalin, Stephen, “Mosul bombings temper residents’ relief at Islamic State pushback,” Reuters, 2/15/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Three civilians killed as IS drones bomb eastern Mosul market," Iraqi News, 2/15/17
- "UPDATED: Islamic State execute 21 civilians in Mosul, Kirkuk over for helping police," Iraqi News, 2/15/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Aid agencies braced for new waves of displacement in Mosul conflict,” 2/15/17


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 120, Feb 14, 2017


The Islamic State launched more attacks upon liberated east Mosul. 24 IS fighters who crossed the Tigris River into southeast Mosul at night were stopped by members of the Golden Division, and were eventually killed after a gun battle. Mortar fire killed 1 civilian and wounded 2 more. The government has been forming local Hashd groups to help secure the city. A commander of one such unit told Voice of America that the insurgents were attempting river attacks almost every night. The same report quoted a soldier who said drone strikes were wounding up to 20 people per day. Surveillance drones were also constantly flying over the city trying to sport targets for mortar fire. There is still the threat of sleeper cells as well. East Mosul remains insecure as a result of these constant attacks.

Adding to the problem is unprofessionalism by some Iraqi forces (ISF). Shafaaq News for instance reported that men in military uniforms and riding in a military vehicle robbed a car store in east Mosul. Army and Federal Police have also been accused of looting and burning homes, and committing some abuses in the city as well.

The insurgents launched another large attack in the Tal Afar district west of Mosul. The town of Tal Abta was assaulted again, with 11 car bombs reportedly destroyed.

IS continued to destroy property in areas under its control. It blew up the Federal Court of Appeal building in west Mosul, and 15 houses belonging to police officers in the town of Badush. The Islamists have carried out a mini-scorched earth policy since the start of the Battle for Mosul in October. February 12 the militants launched a three-pronged attack the Hashd claimed was the biggest they had seen so far. They said that IS fighters were trying to flee to Syria. They were actually probably trying to break the siege of Baaj where many of their commanders are holding up.

A commander from the Golden Division General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi claimed that the attack on west Mosul was just waiting for good weather. The general stated that rainy and cold weather was holding up the operation, which would have started already if conditions had been better.

Reuters had a good report on the economic impact of Islamic State rule on Ninewa. It talked with farmers who had their business destroyed under two years of IS control. They believe it could take years to rebuild their farms. They need seeds, fertilizer, fuel, electricity, equipment, irrigation, etc. all to rebuild. There are also damaged fields and IEDs to deal with. The government and the United Nations have started programs to try to help Ninewa’s agriculture, but it appears it will be a long process for the province to return to being the breadbasket of the country.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "IS detonates houses of 15 former policemen, arrests 10 civilians in Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/14/17
- "Security forces kill 24 IS members after sneaking into eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/14/17

Buratha News, “Recent developments in the field during Ninewa We Are Coming operation until 15:00 Tuesday 14 02 2017,” 2/14/17

Al Forat, “Anti-terrorism forces wait for improved weather to attack west Mosul,” 2/14/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 13, 2017,” 2/14/17

Al Maalomah, "The death of one civilian and wounding two others in Daesh shelling East Mosul," 2/14/17
- "Talabawi: the popular crowd repelled a great Daesh attack on Tal Abta and destroyed 11 car bombs,' 2/14/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Exclusive: After Islamic State defeat, broken Iraqi farmers weigh heavy losses,” Iraqi News, 2/14/17

Murdock, Heather, “Mosul Illusion Shattered After Militant Attacks,” Voice of America, 2/13/17

New Sabah, “Anti-Terrorism forces repel a Daesh attack across the river to the southeast of Mosul,” 2/14/17

Shafaaq News, "Gunmen disguised in military uniforms rob a car shop owner in east Mosul," 2/14/17
- "Urgent..Daesh blow up the Federal Court building in Mosul," 2/14/17


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 119, Feb 13, 2017


There has been two weeks of pause in between offensive operations in Mosul. In those days the Iraqi Forces (ISF) have continued to report their readiness and the collapse of the Islamic State. The Golden Division’s General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi said that his units were ready to attack west Mosul. At the same time he claimed IS had fallen apart because it has lost most of its leaders and were low on supplies. Similar statements are made almost everyday by ISF commanders.

The Iraqi forces actually made some offensives moves on February 13. The Federal Police were clearing the territory south of Mosul along the Tigris River, and took a village while doing so. This was probably in preparation for the assault on west Mosul to make sure the lines of advance are cleared of IEDs and other IS barriers. The Hashd also freed two villages in the west. At the start of February the Hashd announced the 6th phase of their operations, but despite the hype it only lasted a few days, but did cut some IS supply lines to Syria. Since then those units have been holding their ground against IS attacks.

On February 12 the insurgents launched three large attacks in the Tal Afar district to reportedly break open routes to Syria. This even involved tanks, rarely seen in Iraq. The next day four car bombs were destroyed in the district, and an Algerian journalist was wounded by IS sniper fire. The militants are constantly probing the Hashd lines in the west. They are always turned back however due to the wide open terrain, which allows the quick detection of these thrusts and their eventually destruction.

IS has started attacks to the south of Mosul as well. Islamic State fighters set upon the towns of Albu Saif and Hamam al-Alil. These were probably aimed at disrupting the ISF staging there for the upcoming campaign against west Mosul.

East Mosul now suffers more daily attacks then any other area of Iraq. 2 suicide bombers hit a market killing 12 and wounding 33. Mortars and rockets landed on six neighborhoods leaving 6 dead and 25 injured. Drones hit at least two areas resulting in 4 fatalities and 7 wounded. The Golden Division’s General Saadi tried to play down these incidents saying they were having little effect. It is true that they are not stopping life from returning to the east, but they are forcing people out of the city and causing a growing number of casualties.

There are now more people returning to Mosul then leaving, but there are continued difficulties. The United Nations had 791 people leaving east Mosul for two displacement camps from February 8-9, while 1,442 went back at the same time. On February 13, the Golden Division blocked people from entering the city coming from the Bartella area for security reasons, likely because of reports of IS infiltrators. A few people are escaping IS held west Mosul as well. They are often shot at by IS to try to stop them. People returning are finding that most basic services are unavailable. There is no electricity so people have to rely upon generators. The main water system was destroyed in late January 2017 so water is being trucked in. Aid groups are also distributing kerosene and dry foods, but that is only to some areas. There are markets open, but again, they are not accessible to all and shortages are causing high inflation. Looting has also gone on and some homes have been burned. At the same time, 240 families at two camps, roughly 1,400 people have refused to leave because they said that their villages have been completely destroyed and there was nothing to go back to. There are others that are frustrated that they can’t leave yet because their towns have either not been cleared of explosives or they are too close to the frontlines. The United Nations is still concerned about arbitrary arrests of people entering the camps by the security forces. The ISF has also evicted people from areas because they are accused of being IS sympathizers, while others are not allowed out of camps for the same reasons. Many displaced lack their official documents, which means they cannot get aid from the various government agencies.

Rudaw talked with Vice President Osama Nujafi. He told the paper that the people of Mosul welcomed the ISF for liberating them. The problems now involve the lack of services, restoring order and IS sleeper cells within the city. He also claimed there have been abuses by the security forces, but that have not been systematic. In the future after the insurgents were expelled he wants Ninewa turned into a federal region, something he and his brother, ex-Ninewa Governor Atheeel Nujafi have talked about for quite some time.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Federal Police repulses IS attack south of Mosul, 13 militants killed," Iraqi News, 2/13/17
- "IS shells 5 schools near Mosul, kills and wounds 28 students and teachers," Iraqi News, 2/13/17

Buratha News, "Recent developments in the field during Ninewa We Are Coming operations until 14:55 Monday 12 02 2017," 2/13/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Feb. 12, 2017," 2/12/17

New Sabah, “Anti-Terrorism Forces reveal a major breakdown in the ranks of Daesh in East Mosul,” 2/13/17

Rudaw, “Sunnis more divided than others, Maliki has no chance of becoming PM again,” 2/13/17

Shafaaq News, "Algerian journalist wounded by a sniper near Mosul," 2/13/17
- “Iraqi forces begin operations on the Tigris River southeast of Mosul,” 2/13/17
-"Killing a woman and her child and injuring her daughter by a Daesh missile targeting their home northeast Mosul," 2/13/17
- “Source: Counter-terrorism forces prevent entry of people to Mosul coming from Kurdistan Region,” 2/13/17
- "Urgent..Daesh launches more than 10 drone attacks on eastern area of Mosul," 2/13/17

Sotaliraq, "12 civilians were killed in a double suicide attack east Mosul," 2/13/17

Al Sumaria, "Killing and wounding 11 civilians in bombing by Daesh drone in East Mosul," 2/13/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 13 February 2017,” 2/13/17
- “Mosul Weekly Protection Update, 4-10 February 2017,” 2/10/17


Monday, February 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 118, Feb. 12, 2017


The Islamic State launched a large three-pronged attack upon the Hashd in western Ninewa, and another against the Iraqi forces (ISF) in the south. IS attacked along the Tal Afar, Baaj, Blaij line with up to 17 car bombs and suicide bombers. The Hashd claimed they were trying to re-open the road from Mosul to Syria. The fighting lasted for half of the day. The insurgents also assaulted a Federal Police headquarters in Arbaj in the Hamam al-Alil district south of Mosul. 1 police was killed and six soldiers were wounded in the process. IS’s main strategy is to always attack. Given the wide open terrain these incidents took place in they were near suicide missions for the militants as their movements were easy to detect and turn back.

There were more casualties in the Mosul area. On February 11 two suicide bombers were killed, another hit a gathering of ISF killing 1 soldier and wounding 6 others, a sleeper cell was interdicted leading to a gunfight leaving 2 police dead and 4 injured, and drones hit four neighborhoods with 12 fatalities and 3 wounded. The next day, drones dropped explosives on seven areas, and there was also sniper and mortar file. In total, 24 people lost their lives and 12 wounded. The militants executed another ten just north of Mosul for trying to escape. IS is trying its best to terrorize the liberated sections of the city with constant shelling, drone hits, and infiltrations. In the areas still under its control it has been busy terrorizing the public as well.

The Joint Operations Command announced that all the security forces were in place for the attack on west Mosul. The Iraqi Air Force dropped flyers over west Mosul once again, calling on IS members to give up rather than fight. There were still talks about tactics however. The Command included the government’s propaganda line that most of the Islamic State’s leaders were dead, injured or had fled. Worries about IS operations in the east were holding up taking on the west.

The Telegraph had a good article on the attempts to secure east Mosul. There are major fears that IS will conduct more major attacks in liberated zones like they did on February 10 with three car bombs and a suicide bombing. The ISF are conducting searches throughout the city to hunt down IS members. People are becoming increasing paranoid as well. The paper talked with a man in Arabi who said that displaced people had moved into his neighborhood and he didn’t know who they were and he wanted them out because they might be a threat. East Mosul has only been under government control for a few weeks. An Iraqi general said it would take 30 days to root out all the sleeper cells. Given the size of the city and the fact that most of the population remained inside Mosul there are plenty of opportunities for IS to hide amongst civilians. There’s also the problem of insurgents constantly attempting to sneak fighters in as well. All together that probably means the threat of IS operations will continue into the foreseeable future.

Finally, the Washington Post was the latest to travel to the Qayara area to report on the oil well fires there. The Islamic State used to ship oil from the fields, but when they were forced out set fire to the wells. Today there are five still afire causing huge environmental and health problems to the area.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "IS attacks on several areas of Mosul leaves at least 12 casualties," Iraqi News, 2/12/17

AIN, "Urgent popular crowd destroys 17 car bombs and kills 20 suicide bombers west of Mosul," 2/12/17

Europe Balkan Latest News, "5 killed, 300 hurt as Baghdad anti-government protests turn violent," 2/11/17

Holley, Peter, “Fireballs and booby traps: On the front lines with the oil workers battling ISIS,” Washington Post, 2/12/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 11, 2017,” 2/11/17
- “Inside Mosul: Feb. 12, 2017,” 2/12/17

MacDiarmid, Campbell, “’Isil will return’: forces search for jihadi sleeper cells in east Mosul, fearing surprise attacks,” Telegraph, 2/12/17

New Sabah, “Joint Operations Command military units deployed on several axes in preparation for storming East Mosul,” 2/12/17

NINA, "8 Civilians Killed By Targeting Funerals In Northern Mosul," 2/11/17

Rudaw, “ISIS launches wave of counterattacks against Hashd al-Shaabi west of Mosul,” 2/12/17

Shafaaq News, "Daesh executed five civilians shot to death north Mosul," 2/12/17
- "New attack by Daesh drones leads to injures east Mosul," 2/12/17

Sotaliraq, "Killing and injuring five civilians bombed by Daesh north Mosul," 2/12/17


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


Mosul Campaign Day 157, March 24, 2017

The Mosul offensive has ground down into a stalemate. While areas are still regularly freed, they are relatively small, and the Iraqi forc...