Advances in west Mosul has gone through fits and spurts. On March 14 the Federal police seized the Mosul Train Station. The Iraqi forces (ISF) were also trying to take the Grand Mosque where the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate. The building has been in site of the ISF for the last few days, but they were repulsed after suffering heavy losses. The Iron Bridge was another target the police have targeted. The ISF were still fighting over the Bab al-Tob area of the Old City as well. A mix of rain, IS snipers, and the compact layout of the Old City have all contributed to the recent slowdown in the ISF’s progress.
Researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi uncovered an Islamic State document found in north Mosul about the future of the organization. The paper said IS acknowledged that it would lose not only Mosul but Raqqa as well, but said that setbacks did not mean the end of the caliphate. This would support remarks by Charlie Winter a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College that IS gave up on Mosul months if not a year ago. The writing has been on the wall for a long time that the insurgents were going to lose in Iraq, and it would only be natural for them to start planning for their next phase. One of the group’s main slogans has been “endure.” It has gone through defeats before, and still believes that it will live through this time as well. This is yet another reminder that seizing the Islamic State’s territory is only part of destroying the group, and other security, economic and political steps are necessary, which Baghdad should be planning for.
The Iraqi forces are mishandling the growing number of displaced (IDPs) leaving west Mosul. The Iraq Red Crescent reported more than 80,000 have fled that section of the city so far. The Displacement Minister had the figure at around 89,000. The camps in Kurdistan have room for up to 27,400 IDPs, but the ISF keeps sending people to Hamam al-Alil and Qayara, which are full. IDPs are also not being told of their options of where they can go and simply follow the ISF’s orders. Aid groups are talking with both the government and the ISF to get them to change this policy.
With the battle for west Mosul on east Mosul is getting forgotten. The Los Angeles Times followed police chief Wathaq Hamdani through that section of the city. Hamdani was in charge of the city before from 2006-2008. Right now he has 10,000 officers under his command, and expected 1,000 more in the middle of March. Those men only have 200 vehicles however, compared to 3,000 before 2014. Not all of the east side was under his authority either as the army was still clearing the area along the Tigris River. Providing a single unified security force for the city is an essential step to providing stability. Initially there was a hodgepodge of forces from the army, to the police, to the Hashd to tribal units all running different sections of Mosul. It’s unclear if that has been cleared up yet, but it needs to be to move forward. There have also been reports of abuses by ISF and intelligence services, which would cost the government the good standing it has earned from freeing the city. That could also be solved if the police were made the primary force in the city.
Agence France Presse, “Over 80,000 Iraqis displaced in west Mosul fighting: IOM,” 3/14/17
- “Iraq forces retake Mosul train station: police,” 3/13/17
Euronews, “Iraq: More Civilians Flee As Fighting Resumes In Western Mosul,” 3/14/17
Gamal-Gabriel, Tony and Faraj, Salam, "Iraq forces retake Mosul train station," Agence France Presse, 3/14/17
George, Susannah, “In Mosul, a heavy but not crushing blow to IS group,” 3/14/17
Hennessy-Fiske, Molly, “East Mosul may be free from Islamic state control, but it’s far from secure,” Los Angeles Times, 3/14/17
Iraq News Center, “Urgent joint government forces pull out from near the Great Mosque in the Al-Nouri region,” 3/14/17
Iraqi Red Crescent Society, “Increase in the numbers of displaced from the right side of Mosul to more than 80,000 displaced since the start of the operations till now,” 3/13/17
Al Jazeera, “Battle for Mosul: Who controls what,” 3/14/17
Al Mada, “Control the eastern edge of the Tigris and surround the right bank of Mosul,” 3/15/17
Markey, Patrick and Boumzar, Abdelaziz, “IS Mosul commander killed, government forces battle for bridge,” Reuters, 3/13/17
Al Masalah, “The most important sites lost by Daesh in West Mosul,” 3/14/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Coalition jets kill 9 militants in western Mosul, IS continues to burn homes,” Iraqi News, 3/14/17
New Sabah, “Counter Terrorism Forces likely to free right bank of Mosul in the next month,” 3/14/17
Rudaw, “UPDATED: Iraqi forces control New Mosul, struggle to enter Old City,” 3/14/17
Shafaaq News, “What happened Tuesday on the Mosul Front?” 3/14/17
Al Sumaria, “Federal Police: units of the Third Division move to the old bridge in Mosul,” 3/14/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 14 March 2017,” 3/14/17