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.

Anbar only had 5 incidents during the week. That consisted of two insurgent attacks, an IED, and a shooting of a family attempting to flee Islamic State controlled territory in the western section of the province. The biggest however was the kidnapping of 17 truck drivers outside Ramadi, which has caused some controversy. That’s because no one knows who committed the act and thus everyone has been blamed from IS to tribal fighters to the Hashd. The low level of violence left 5 dead and 6 wounded.

The insurgents have been picking up their activities in Baghdad. That was seen by their continued car bomb campaign in the capital province. There were a total of 3 such bombings along with a fourth that was discovered and dismantled. Added to that were 23 IEDs. Those incidents and more left 111 fatalities and 267 wounded.

There were not as many reported incidents in Basra. The week before there was 10, mostly IEDs in Basra city. The third week of February there was just 3, again all in Basra city including a shooting, a sound bomb, and an IED that left 1 dead. No explanation has been given for the recent increase, but some of it appears to be due to political feuds.

Diyala has seen sporadic attacks, but it is another area where IS has become more active. During the week there were 7 incidents leaving 5 dead and 5 wounded. More importantly IS has several suspected bases throughout the rural and mountainous regions of the province including the Hamin Mountains, Abu Saida and others. Diyala is also suspected of being the major source for car bombs used in Baghdad. Provincial officials are increasingly worried about IS rebuilding there and what that could mean for the future.

Kirkuk is one of the few province where IS still controls territory in the Hawija district. Diyala and Salahaddin officials are complaining more and more that IS cells are moving out of Hawija into their provinces. Kirkuk itself is rather secure with only sporadic violence. There were 4 incidents leading to 11 deaths and 2 injured. 8 of those killed were executed by IS in Hawija on charges that they collaborated with the security forces.

Several times a month Turkey announces air strikes upon Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases in northern Kurdistan. Rarely are casualties reported, but during the week Ankara claimed it killed 42 PKK members in 3 air raids.

With the renewed Mosul campaign Ninewa remained the major battlefield in the country. There were 75 incidents, 195 dead, and 224 injured from February 15-21. Many of those attacks were in liberated eastern Mosul as IS has tried its best to undermine security there. During the week there was one car bomb, 3 suicide bombers, and 8 more suicide bombers killed or arrested in the eastern half of the city. That went along with daily mortar, rocket and drone strikes. These constant attacks have driven several thousand people out of the city, and stopped others from returning.

Salahaddin is the final governorate where local officials are worried about the Islamic State’s return. There were just 6 incidents, but one of those was a suicide bomber being killed, another was two car bombs being destroyed, and two others were attacks by the insurgents. IS was never driven from the eastern sections of the province, and they have returned to liberated areas like Tikrit and others leading to the governor and others asking for Baghdad’s help.

Violence In Iraq 2017
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan 1-7
188
509
1,346
Jan 8-14
168
363
1,044
Jan 15-21
137
583
1,264
Jan 22-28
145
289
310
Jan 29-31
74
127
338
JAN
712
1,871
4,302
Feb 1-7
123
388
176
Feb 8-14
164
433
391
Feb 15-21
145
381
505

Province
Violence
Anbar
5 Incidents
5 Killed: 1 ISF, 4 Civilians
6 Wounded: 2 ISF, 4 Civilians
3 Shootings
1 IED
Baghdad
42 Incidents
111 Killed: 111 Civilians
267 Wounded: 10 ISF, 257 Civilians
9 Shootings
23 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Car Bombs
2 Mortars
3 Suicide Bombers Killed/Arrested
1 Car Bomb Dismantled
Basra
3 Incidents
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
1 IED
1 Sound Bomb
Diyala
7 Incidents
5 Killed: 1 Hashd, 4 Civilians
5 Wounded: 1 Civilian, 4 Hashd
3 Shootings
3 IEDs
Kirkuk
4 Incidents
11 Killed: 1 Peshmerga, 10 Civilians
2 Wounded: 1 Civilian, 1 Peshmerga
2 Shootings
1 IED
KRG
2 Incidents
42 Killed: 42 PKK
3 Turkish Air Strikes
Ninewa
75 Incidents
195 Killed: 10 ISF, 26 Hashd, 159 Civilians
224 Wounded: 16 Hashd, 20 ISF, 188 Civilians
13 Shootings
5 IEDs
5 Suicide Bombers
1 Suicide Car Bomb
4 Car Bombs
2 Mortars
7 Rockets
16 Drone Strikes
44 Suicide Bombers Arrested/Killed
3 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
47 Car Bombs Destroyed/Disabled
Salahaddin
6 Incidents
9 Killed: 9 Hashd
1 Wounded: 1 Civilian
4 Shootings
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed
Unknown
1 Incident
2 Killed: 2 ISF

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Official: IS kills 8 Iraqi militia near Tikrit," Associated Press, 2/17/17

Bas News, "18 Killed in Baghdad Blast," 2/15/17

Buratha News, "Unidentified set off sound bomb in front of a residential house in central Basra," 2/19/17

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

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Army says foiled IS attack in western Anbar, killed 7 militants," Iraqi News, 2/20/17
- "UPDATED: Islamic State execute 21 civilians in Mosul, Kirkuk over for helping police," Iraqi News, 2/15/17

Reuters, "Baghdad car bomb kills 51 as Islamic State escalates insurgency," 2/16/17
- "Iraq blast: Suicide car bomb kills at least 15 in Al Sadr; Shia suburb of Baghdad," 2/15/17

Sotaliraq, "Civilian killed by unknown assailants in central Basra," 2/18/17
- "Fatlawi called on the government to immediately free 17 truck drivers kidnapped in Anbar," 2/18/17

Al Sumaria, "Baghdad operations; Security forces seized a car bomb in Sadr City," 2/16/17
- "Daesh kills a woman and injures four civilians while trying to escape them," 2/21/17
- "Home targeted by an improvised explosive device in Basra, and police arrest a man accused of various crimes," 2/20/17
- "Killing one soldier and wounding two others in Daesh attack on checkpoint in Anbar," 2/20/17
- "Three children killed by a roadside bomb west of Ramadi," 2/19/17

TRT World, "Car bomb in Baghdad kills at least seven," 2/22/17

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.

The Associated Press reported that casualties were increasing with the renewed fighting. It said 30 ISF and 200 civilians had been killed and wounded in the last three days. The ISF has said there are less car bombs then compared to east Mosul, but that’s not reflected in statements by the ISF that routinely inflate car and suicide bombings. There has also been a huge number of drone strikes. In one day there were more than 70. These usually only cause injuries rather than deaths, but they have disrupted ISF movements.

There could be a change in plan in the Tal Afar district to the west of Mosul. First, the Hashd announced they had ended the first part of their sixth phase of operations there. At the same time, the Ninewa Council said that the special forces would take the town of Tal Afar itself. Originally the main goal of the Hashd was seizing the town. Then Turkey complained about the negative consequences of such an action and Baghdad signed an agreement with Ankara that the ISF would be given the duty. That never happened, and then the Hashd were again assigned liberating the village. There was no explanation for the newest change. If the ISF are to attack Tal Afar it will likely happen after Mosul because there are not enough forces to do both at the same time.

Pro-Iranian Hashd continued their propaganda against the U.S. in Tal Afar. The day before the Hashd claimed they had video of American planes dropping supplies to IS in the district. Today a Hashd leader told the media that it had documents and film to prove the U.S. Coalition had not only helped IS in Tal Afar, but Baiji and other parts of Iraq along with Syria. An Iraqi security analyst was quoted in Al Maalomah that it was not the Coalition, but rather Turkey that was responsible. There are a number of conspiracy theories surrounding America and Turkey backing the Islamic State. These were just the latest examples.

Human Rights Watch expressed new concerns about the screening process used on displaced in Ninewa. It received reports that Kurdish security and the National Security Service were detaining people after they had been checked. People are routinely held incommunicado and can be held for months with no information given to their families. Obviously people need to be checked for ties to the Islamic State, but the process has always appeared arbitrariness and inconsistent raising the concerns of humanitarian and rights groups.

The number of people returning in Ninewa has slowed down according to the United Nations. Some people in camps who had been cleared to do so have decided not to. Also some families that had gone back to their homes were now once again in the camps. IS attacks, no jobs, high prices, and shortages of food, fuel, water, electricity and medicines have all been cited as reasons for this change.

The new fighting in south Mosul has also led to a new wave of displaced. Up to 3,000 people left the Mamun neighborhood. Several thousand more were seen fleeing in other areas as well. Once the security forces move farther north some of these people can be expected to start returning as they did in east Mosul.

Finally, a new tally is available for casualties caused by the Mosul campaign. This is based upon compiling daily reports from over 40 different sources, mostly Iraqi ones. Because of the Iraqi government not providing figures for its losses and inaccessibility to reporters in many areas of Ninewa these figures should be considered a minimum, as the real numbers are likely much higher.

Mosul Campaign Casualties 10/17/16-2/21/17
6,118 Killed
1 US Sailor, 1 Hashd al-Watani, 1 Iranian Revolutionary Guard, 2 Kurd Counterterrorism, 23 Police, 66 Peshmerga, 136 Hashd, 260 Soldiers, 350 ISF, 5,278 Civilians
19,286 Wounded
5 Hashd al-Watani, 17 Police, 93 Hashd, 250 Peshmerga, 487 Soldiers, 2,798 ISF, 15,636 Civilians

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Federal Police recaptures Harakiyat area south of Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/26/17

AIN, “Popular crowd ended the first phase of its operations west and east of Tal Afar after liberating 12 villages,” 2/26/17

Fox News, “Iraq: Officials recapture new neighborhood in Mosul,” 2/26/17

George, Susannah, “Casualties mount as Iraqi troops advance in IS-held Mosul,” Associated Press, 2/26/17

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq/Kurdistan Region: Men, Boys Who Fled ISIS Detained,” 2/26/17

Hussein, Sara, “Iraq forces in west Mosul aim for key bridge,” Agence France Presse, 2/26/17

Al Maalomah, “Nineveh Council: special forces will take over the task of freeing Tal Afar,” 2/26/17
- “Popular crowd reveals possession of documents and film demonstrating international coalition support for Daesh,” 2/26/17
- “Sharif reveals the identity of the planes that dropped aid to Daesh in Tal Afar,” 2/26/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “UPDATED: Iraqi forces retake 2 major districts following Mosul airport victory,” Iraqi News, 2/26/17

NINA, "Rapid Reaction Forces Storm The First Popular Area In The Southern Axis Of Mosul," 2/25/17

Rudaw, “Dozens of ISIS foreign fighters captured as Iraqi army enters western Mosul,” 2/26/17
- “Iraqi forces recapture two west Mosul neighborhoods,” 2/26/17
- "LIVE UPDATES: Abadi announces start of military campaign for west Mosul," 2/19/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 23 February 2017,” 2/25/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces free first neighborhood from IS in Mosul,” 2/26/17


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.

The army, police, and Golden Division were still engaged in Mamun, Wadi Hajar, and Tayaran in the southern tip of the city. The 9th Division did take the power station in Yarmouk, which supplies all of Mosul. Fighting and defending in Mamun was difficult because the streets were not laid out in a grid, making it difficult to block routes to protect against car bombs. IS also flooded part of the neighborhood to impede the movement of the ISF. The insurgents have been forcing people out of their homes to convert them into fighting positions. The ISF claimed that the Islamic State set some buildings on fire when people refused to leave them. IS has always put up an effective urban defense. It has been unable to sustain it over the long run however.

As the government forces reached the city, civilians began to flow out. Reuters reported that around 1,000 people were seen leaving. Many were not from Mosul itself, but were actually from southern towns that were taken as human shields by the Islamic State. One family was from Hamam al-Alil for instance and had been forced into Mosul four months ago by the insurgents. No matter their origin, the ISF were screening all the men as usual looking for IS members.

In the west the Hashd freed four more villages in the Tal Afar district. The Hashd’s main job during the campaign has been to cut the Islamic State’s supply lines reaching west from Mosul to Syria. It is supposed to take Tal Afar itself sometime, but it has not moved on the town yet.

The Hashd also released video footage claiming to be the United States parachuting supplies to IS in the Tal Afar area. Earlier they claimed that U.S. planes had dropped arms and ammunition to the insurgents in the same area, and was helping IS leaders escape. Many of the Hashd units in the west are pro-Iranian and have made these types of charges against the Americans since 2014. It is part of their standard propaganda to undermine the U.S. presence in Iraq.

A few miles south of Mosul the ISF found a mass grave called the “horror hole”. Residents said that IS executed hundreds of people and dropped them into a huge pit outside the village of Athba. The non-governmental organization Iraq Observatory for Human Rights claimed that there could be up to 5,000 people at the site.

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul as civilians flee," Iraqi News, 2/25/17

AIN, "Urgent popular crowd free Aziziyah village east of Tal Afar," 2/25/17

Buratha News, “Extended: Latest developments in the field during the Ninewa We Are Coming operation until 17:30 Saturday 25 02 2017,” 2/25/17

Callimachi, Rukmini, “A Ruined Farmer and a Love Letter: Remnants From Fighting in Western Mosul,” New York Times, 2/25/17

Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mosul as civilians flee,” 2/25/17

George, Susannah, “Conditions deteriorate in west Mosul as Iraqi advances slow,” Associated Press, 2/25/17

Face Iraq, “International coalition artillery bombed Daesh targets from Mosul Airport,” 2/25/17

Makhzoomi, Khairuldeen, “ISIS threw hundreds of bodies in a ‘horror hole,’” Huffington Post, 2/24/17

New Sabah, “Counter Terrorism forces will remain in the Wadi Hajar neighborhood and liberation of villages on the right bank of Mosul,” 2/25/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi forces make large gains in southwestern Mosul a week into third phase,” 2/25/17
- “Iraqi forces seize key power station that supplies electricity to entire Mosul,” 2/25/17

Shafaaq News, “Details on the battle with Daesh and the most prominent achievements of the Iraq forces during the day in Mosul,” 2/25/17

Sotaliraq, “Unidentified aircraft believed to be American drop parachutes on sites under Daesh control,” 2/25/17

World Bulletin, "5 Iraqi soldiers killed in Mosul clashes," 2/25/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces push deeper into IS-held western side of Mosul,” 2/25/17


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.

The Hashd in the western Tal Afar district were also busy. They liberated three towns. The Hashd have moved form cutting the supply lines from Tal Afar to Syria to interdicting the lines from Mosul to Tal Afar.

There were constant Coalition air strikes and U.S. Apache helicopters flying overhead as the ISF moved into Mosul. Those were facilitated by U.S. and Coalition advisers, which are now forward deployed at the front with the Golden, Rapid Reaction, and 9th Divisions. The Associated Press talked with U.S. Lt. Colonel James Browning who was working with the 9th Division. He took calls from an Iraqi general on IS locations, which were then confirmed by Coalition surveillance, and then hit with air, helicopter or artillery fire. Before these Iraqi requests would have to be forwarded to the joint operations command in Baghdad before anything could be done taking precious time. Now the call and response period is much quicker. This is part of the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to taking on the Islamic State. As a result, the Americans have loosened the rules of engagement and allowed its troops to be at the front, which has also resulted in casualties. This change in policy will greatly enhance the Iraqis ability to clear areas and advance in the city.

The renewed fighting has led to a new wave of displaced. The Iraq Red Crescent reported that approximately 990 people registered with the government and aid agencies fleeing south Mosul. These civilians were taken to Qayara to the south of the city or to Irbil in the east where camps are set up. For the last few weeks more people were going back to their homes, but that has now been reversed as the battle for west Mosul has begun.

Securing east Mosul is still a major challenge. The National Security Service (NSS) is trying to hunt down IS members. They are collecting information on suspects using information from locals. The NSS however is not the only group doing security duties. There are also army, police, and local Hashd units. These groups hardly coordinate and compete with each other, which has caused all kinds of problems. People are also beginning to complain about the raids and mass arrests. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi is talking about appointing a military governor of Mosul again to try to unify this effort. This idea was brought up before, but nothing came of it. Now that IS is picking up its attacks there is added pressure to try to find a solution.

National Security Service raid in east Mosul (Al Jazeera)

The danger facing east Mosul continued. The Iraqi forces interdicted a large force of IS fighters attempting to cross the Tigris River. More importantly residents said that IS is posting threats to people on social networks. The militants recently put up flyers in an east Mosul neighborhood intimidating people as well. These are very serious because if people feel that they are not safe they will eventually stop providing intelligence to the Iraqi forces. If that happens there is no way to root out the Islamic State and they can start rebuilding their networks in the city just as Baghdad has expended so much energy to try to win over the populace by liberating them.

U.S. general Joseph Votel gave a rough estimate of the Iraqi casualties from the battle for east Mosul. He said 500 Iraqi soldiers died and another 3,000 were wounded. More ISF were reported killed in the press, but only around half as many injured. The real figures may never become public as Baghdad is completely adverse to bad news about the war coming out.

Finally, the Oil Ministry announced that another oil well in Qayara had been extinguished. That leaves three wells still ablaze. The field was set on fire when IS was forced out in August, and has been an environmental disaster ever since.

SOURCES

Al Aalem, “Pictures: large numbers of Daesh in the hands of the Rapid Reaction Forces south Mosul,” 2/24/17

BBC, “Iraqi forces enter IS-held neighbourhood in west Mosul,” 2/24/17

Beck, John, “Hunting down ISIL sleeper cells in Mosul,” 2/24/17

Chulov, Martin, “Iraqi forces seize Mosul airport from Isis as Syrian rebels take al-Bab,” Guardian, 2/24/17

Al Forat, "Foiled Daesh attack in Al Manatiq," 2/24/17

George, Susannah and Szlanko, Balint, “US changes rules of engagement for Mosul fight in Iraq,” Associated Press, 2/24/17

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Feb. 23, 2017," 2/23/17

Iraq Red Crescent Society, “Iraqi Red Crescent: Increase in the number of displaced people to 990 after operations begin in he West side of Mosul City,” 2/24/17

Kalin, Stephen and Coles, Isabel, “Iraqi forces push into first districts of western Mosul,” Reuters, 2/24/17

Al Mada, “Founder of the first Nineveh Operations Command is responsible for security in the left coast of Mosul,” 2/25/17
- “Thwarted an infiltration attempt by hundreds of militants into the left coast of Mosul,” 2/25/17

Al Masalah, “Oil Ministry announces extinguishing well #58 in Qayyarah field,” 2/25/17

New Sabah, “The joint forces liberated Ghazlani camp and Mosul airport flying the Iraqi flag over them,” 2/24/17

Rudaw, “LIVE: Iraqi forces enter first district in western Mosul, gain ground against ISIS,” 2/24/17

Salim, Mustafa and Morris, Loveday, “Iraqi jets strike Islamic State in Syria for first time as troops advance in Mosul,” Washington Post, 2/24/17

Shafaaq News, “Full details of the last 24-hours of battle in Mosul,” 2/24/17

Shakir, Sarhad and Qassim, Ahmed, "Iraqi forces take 1st district of W. Mosul: Army source," Anadolu Agency, 2/23/17

Stanglin, Doug, “Iraqi troops battle booby-trapped drones as they enter western Mosul,” USA Today, 2/24/17

Voice of America, “US-backed Iraqi Forces Take Control of Mosul Airport, Enter City,” 2/24/17

Wedeman, Ben, “Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces advance near key area in city’s west,” CNN, 2/24/17


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. 
(BBC)

U.S. led Coalition advisers were seen supporting the ISF during the day. One was reportedly wounded by the Mosul airport, but no nationality was given. The U.S. general in charge of the Central Command General Joseph Votel has told the press that there are 450 U.S. Special Forces taking part in the new Mosul campaign. These are forward deployed for the first time under President Trump’s new anti-IS policy.

For the first time the ISF entered west Mosul itself. Maamun, Kherba and Wadi Hajar were all attacked by the Golden and 16th Divisions with the first two being freed. The Islamic State was said to have put up a tough fight for these areas. Chechens, some of the group’s best fighters were reportedly involved.

The Iraqi forces are not only moving on a broad southern front, but are also in the west and going to add a northern one as well. In the west, units from the 9th, 15th and 16th Divisions along with the Al-Abbas Division are present. Elements of those three army divisions are supposed to move on the northwest sometime soon. This will put added pressure upon the Islamic State having to fight on multiple fronts. The ISF originally attempted to do this in its attack on west Mosul but poor coordination and novice units undermined the effort.

The flow of the displaced has shifted back to more people leaving rather than returning in Ninewa. According to the International Organization for Migration the number of people registering with the government and aid agencies went from 159,006 on January 26 to 161,730 on February 23. At the start of February more people were leaving camps and going back to Mosul and the surrounding towns. The reversal was due to a number of reasons. First, the new campaign has led to people leaving southern Mosul. Second, the constant IS attacks on east Mosul has driven civilians out. Third, stories of shortages and the lack of services and jobs have also made some people to reconsider going back. The number of displaced has always ebbed and flowed and there will likely be a decided increase as more of west Mosul is entered, followed by a decrease as more areas are freed and people start returning.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Salaheddin, Sinan, “US-backed Iraqi forces enter Mosul airport, military base,” Associated Press, 2/23/17

Adel, Loaa, "Elite militia leader killed in armed clashes with IS near Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/23/17

AIN, "Video..of the strongest confrontation with the popular crowd west of Tal Afar," 2/23/17

Airwars, "February 23rd 2017: New Mosul, Mosul, Nineveh province, Iraq"

BBC, “Mosul offensive: Iraqi forces recapture airport in bid to retake city,” 2/23/17

Bulos, Nabih, Abdul Illah, Haidar, “U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recapture Mosul airport and military base,” Los Angeles Times, 2/23/17

CBS News, “Fierce clashes as U.S.-backed forces battle ISIS for airport,” 2/23/17

Chappell, Bill, “Fight For Mosul Moves Westward And Centers On City’s Airport,” NPR, 2/23/17

Coles, Isabel and Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi forces storm Mosul airport, military base,” Reuters, 2/23/17

Gordon, Michael, “Iraqi Forces Take Most of Mosul Airport in Push Against ISIS,” New York Times, 2/23/17

International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #17 – Mosul Operations From 17 October to 23 February,” 2/23/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 23, 2017,” 2/23/17

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi forces take control of Mosul Airport,” 2/23/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Iraqi special forces capture Mosul airport from ISIL,” The National, 2/23/17

New Sabah, "The joint forces stormed Ghazlani camp south Mosul after controlling strategic areas," 2/22/17

Rudaw, “LIVE: Iraqi forces control more than half of Mosul airport,” 2/23/17

Shafaaq News, "Urgent..wounding a soldier from the international coalition during the battle of Mosul airport," 2/23/17

Smith, Alexander, “Iraqi Forces Recapture ISIS-Held Mosul Airport Under Fire: State TV,” NBC News, 2/23/17

World Bulletin, “Iraqi security forces storm ISIL-held Mosul airport,” 2/23/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces free Mosul airport from IS militants,” 2/23/17
- “Iraqi forces launch operation to retake Mosul airport, military base,” 2/23/17


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?

What the police forces were actually doing on February 22 was solidifying their positions in the town of Abu Saif, which they just freed the day before. They were building defensive berms, and preparing to take Yarmouk, which is just north of Abu Saif, and then attack Ghazlani and the airport. Coalition air strikes were softening up those areas. 480 people fled Yarmouk to Abu Saif. They told the Iraqi forces that there were hardly any Islamic State fighters ahead of them, so they should move forward. Overall resistance has been very light so far on this front.

Hashd forces in the west were on the offensive taking two towns and attacking another. IS launched a number of counter attacks with car bombs and suicide bombers. The main goal of these units is to cut the road between Mosul and Tal Afar to try to button up Islamic State fighters within the former.

During the day one cameraman was wounded covering the new campaign.

More importantly, the United States admitted that its advisers had taken fire and been wounded. No details were given, but the Americans said that its forces had been travelling with Iraqis at the front and suffered casualties as a result. This is part of the new Trump Administration’s policy of increasing its participation in the war against the Islamic State.

Everyday the militants are bombarding east Mosul with drones, mortars, and rockets. The press is covering fewer and fewer of these incidents, but that doesn't mean they’re not happening. The only casualties reported were 5 killed and 3 injured from a drone. Just as disconcerting was the fact that IS put up leaflets in a neighborhood telling people to leave otherwise they would be considered targets and be killed. Many IS members slipped into the civilian population of the city to hide, while others were a stay behind force to sow mischief. The ISF is trying to hunt them down, but there are increasing complaints about their heavy handedness, which might turn the population against them. At the same time, IS threats and intimidation are working towards the same goal. This could lead to a very dangerous and unstable situation once all of Mosul is taken.

The Golden Division, which did most of the heavy fighting in east Mosul, has not entered the fray yet, but they are about to. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi from the Division said his forces would join the battle soon. Columns of their vehicles have been seen moving from the south. Beforehand, all of the news was of them launching a frontal assault across the Tigris River. IS spent a lot of time and effort to build up its defenses along the riverbank as a result. This was all part of a psychological campaign to deceive the militants and put their fighters along the Tigris when the new front was coming from the south.

To add to the psychological operations the Iraqi air force dropped thousands of letters from Iraqis over west Mosul. The ISF has done this before. It’s meant to bolster the morale of the population, which are suffering major shortages. At the same time, it undermines the control of IS over the people.

Save the Children had people call their relatives who were in west Mosul. One said his family had no food or water. They were afraid that starvation would set upon the city during the fighting. Some people were going door to door begging for food they were so desperate. Another said there was no health care available. One person said their family members had tried to escape, but were caught and executed with 20 others. Just getting in contact with family has become harder as IS has confiscated phones and killed people found with them.

Various small armed groups have been fighting the militants for months now inside Mosul. On February 22 Kaitab al-Mosul said they shot and killed two senior IS members and ambushed a patrol. These organizations do not pose a military threat to the Islamic State’s control, but they undermine their authority and show that not everyone in the city was a sympathizer as some have argued.

SOURCES

Al-Aalem, “Fourth day of military operations in West Mosul: The destruction of three booby-trapping facilities and killed 20 Daash,” 2/22/17

AIN, “Urgent Rapid Reaction Division frees Ghazlani camp south of Mosul,” 2/21/17

Bas News, “Mosul: Iraqi Troops Storm Biggest Military Camp in North,” 2/20/17

BBC, “Mosul offensive now focused on city’s airport,” 2/22/17

Hussein, Sara and Mojon, Jean-Marc, “Iraq forces poised for Mosul airport assault,” Agence France Presse, 2/22/17

Iraq News Network, “Counter Terrorism Forces: Our troops would participate in the liberation of West Mosul very soon,” 2/22/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 22, 2017,” 2/22/17

Al Maalomah, "Popular crowd destroyed two Daesh car bombs on the right side of Mosul," 2/22/17

MacDiarmid, Campbell, “Iraqi police snipers take aim at Mosul ahead of key airport offensive,” Telegraph, 2/21/17

Al Mada, “Mayor of Mosul: Daesh around the airport and the ruins of Camp
Ghazlani,” 2/23/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Islamic State drone kills 5 civilians, 5 militants arrested in eastern Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/22/17
- "Mobilization units set on operations to clear western Mosul road from IS," Iraqi News, 2/1/17
- “UPDATED: Iraqi forces move towards Mosul airport, biggest mass grave found,” Iraqi News, 2/22/17
- "UPDATED: PMUs launch new phase of offensives on western Mosul's Tal Afar," Iraqi News, 2/22/17

New Sabah, “The joint forces stormed Camp Ghazlani south of Mosul after securing strategic areas,” 2/22/17

Rudaw, “IPDs from around west Mosul urge army’s advance, saying ISIS has left,” 2/22/17

Save the Children, “Stay or flee? Families trapped in Mosul face a brutal choice,” 2/22/17

Shafaaq News, "Cameraman injured while covering battles west of Mosul," 2/22/17
- “Urgent.. begin security operation attacking outposts on the northern areas of the Baghdad road,” 2/23/17

Starr, Barbara, "US troops wounded on the front lines in Mosul," CNN, 2/22/17

Al Sumaria, “Air Force dropped thousands of message from children on West Mosul,” 2/22/17