Monday, October 24, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Seven, Oct 23, 2016

Day seven of the Mosul operation was dominated by the Kurdish push from the north towards Bashiqa. Turkey also finally got involved over the objections of the Iraqi government. The Qayara air base south of Mosul opened, and the Islamic State continued with its destruction of parts of Mosul.

On October 22, the Iraqi forces freed a total of 15 towns. Those were to the south and east of Mosul led by the 9th, 15th and 16th Army Divisions and the Federal Police.

On October 23 the Peshmerga and Federal Police were both active. First, the Kurds surrounded the town of Bashiqa and several others in the district, which is to the northeast of Mosul. This operation was started on October 20, but stalled due to determined counter attacks by the Islamic State. On the 23rd the Kurds renewed their effort and reached their goal. There were some reports that Bashiqa had actually been taken, but the last report of the day said that it was only encircled. The Peshmerga also seized control of the Bashiqa-Mosul road and three towns. In the south, the Federal Police liberated three towns. Three Kurdish doctors were killed during the week along with two soldiers, and two others wounded on the 23rd.

Turkey joined in the Mosul operation for the first time. It fired artillery into the Bashiqa district. The Turks claimed they were supporting the Kurdish effort, but that was disputed. What was not in argument was that this as against the direct consent of the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has continuously rejected Ankara playing any role in Mosul, and the situation only escalated after President Erdogan insulted the Iraqi premier. The artillery fire may be just a way to anger Baghdad even more.

The Qayara air base south of Mosul was finally repaired and became operational. The base was seized several weeks ago, and the United States has been working on it ever since. As soon as the work finished planes began landing there delivering supplies for the Iraqi forces. Its role as a logistics hub, so close to the front will be crucial in keeping the pace of the campaign going.

Within Mosul the Islamic State continued to show signs of victory and defeat. First, the group claimed that its attack upon Kirkuk city was a great victory. At the same time it continued to pull its families and members out of the eastern side of the city into the west. Finally, it continued to blow up notable landmarks. On the 22nd it destroyed the Mosul train station. It appears that the group knows that its time is ending in the city, but it wants to take parts of it down with it, while claiming that it will ultimately win despite this setback.

Previous Reports


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Krauss, Joseph, "Iraqi Forces Advance Near Mosul as IS Attacks Western Town," Associated Press, 10/23/16

ARA News, "Peshmerga forces break through ISIS defense lines, surround Bashiqa town," 10/23/16

Bas News, "Peshmerga liberates 3 Villages in Northern Mosul," 10/23/16

BBC, “Mosul offensive: Turkish and Kurdish forces launch attacks on IS,” 10/23/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 23, 2016," 10/23/16
-"Iraqi Kurds say they retake Christian town of Bashiqa near Mosul," 10/23/16

Al Forat, "Freed new villages and destroyed two Daesh tunnels south of Mosul," 10/23/16
- "Freed village of Tal Skul south of Mosul and raised the Iraqi flag above it," 10/23/16

Iraqi News, "Anti-Terrorism forces repulse ISIS attack near Mosul," 10/23/16

Al Maalomah, "After hours of freeing Qaraqosh foiled four suicide bomb attacks," 10/23/16

NINA, “Daesh Blows Up Mosul Train Station,” 10/22/16

Osgood, Patrick, “Peshmerga complete northern offensive,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/24/16

Rudaw, "MOSUL OFFENSIVE DAY 7: Live Updates," 10/23/16

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was interviewed by Paul Iddon for “Pehsmerga confident of success in Mosul battle despite shortages” and "The scale of Mosul operation presents challenges unlike previous battles with ISIS" both of which were published by Rudaw, and by Malik Ayub Sumbal for "Mosul is the main ISIS cadre" for Eurasia Diary. 

Mosul Campaign Day Six, Oct 22, 2016

The Iraqi joint forces were much more active during the sixth day of the Mosul operation. Several more towns were freed, some of which were declared liberated before however. Iraq’s prime minister rejected Turkey’s participation in the campaign once again. On the insurgents’ side the Islamic State was accused of mass executions and forced displacement, and may be destroying parts of Mosul in anticipation of losing it.

More information was released by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on its work on October 21. Eight towns were reported freed that day to the south and east of Mosul.

The next day another 14 towns were liberated and another one attacked by the ISF. Two of those, Qaraqosh and Bartella were said to have been cleared earlier, but that appeared to be government propaganda. There were actually freed on October 22. Several neighborhoods of Tal Kief were entered as well by the Iraqi army.

The Kurds did not report any gains in their thrusts from the north and east during the day but several Peshmerga were quoted in an article in The National saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had made a deal with Baghdad to keep all the territory that it takes during the Mosul campaign. This will be a hotly debated issue after Mosul is liberated as Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has mentioned before that he does not agree with Kurdistan holding onto these areas. Facts on the ground have largely determined who controls the disputed areas since 2003, and the Kurds have nearly all of the areas they claim. This issue and others will have to be dealt with after the battle is finished. Some argued that there should have been some kind of grand deal beforehand, but that could have easily been broken by military action. More importantly crafting such an agreement might have put off the Mosul campaign for weeks if not months.

Only 2 casualties were reported during the day. A reporter was killed by an IS sniper and a Hashd group claimed that one of its fighters died as well. The low figure was due to official censorship, which is again leading to the suppression of losses. Those are likely heavy as IS has stiffened its defenses in the last few days. Western reporters for example have noted several car bombs that have hit the joint forces, but no figures were given on the dead and wounded. The actual cost of the fight against the Islamic State has been another casualty of the war.

The U.S. led Coalition continued to support the Iraqi join forces. Americans repaired part of the Qayara air base south of Mosul. That could lead to Iraqi planes and helicopters being based there for quick strikes on IS positions. More Coalition members were also reported as being embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces as advisers and to call in air strikes. The U.S. and British forces have been mentioned and seen before by reporters. More than 100 U.S. personnel are said to be with the joint forces on the front lines. Now Australian and New Zealand Special Forces have been added to that list, although the latter officially denied it.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Iraq. He met with Premier Abadi and passed along Turkey’s offer to help with the Mosul operation. Abadi turned it down. Ankara has repeatedly said that it would play a role in the campaign whether Baghdad liked it or not garnering huge anger, especially amongst the Shiite ruling parties and Hashd groups. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inflamed the situation even more right on the eve of the battle by insulting Iraq’s leader saying he was not on the same level. Washington has been trying to mediate between the two countries, but Ankara is attempting to impose its hegemony over Mosul and Ninewa in general, and Baghdad is not having it. Erdogan’s comments ensured that the Iraqi government would never accept any offer from him.

In IS controlled areas it is still attempting to hold onto power. It released a video of the hanging of two Peshmerga off of a bridge in Mosul. It also blew up a prominent hotel and the municipalities building. This is more evidence that IS may be trying to destroy sections of the city before it is forced out. In one part of the city IS used mosque loudspeakers to claim that it had seized most of Kirkuk city and defeated the Iraqi forces in Bartella, both of which were false. In that same section is was forcing shops to re-open. Many businesses have closed up in anticipation of the assault. There were reports that the group had pushed around 200 people from several villages south of Mosul into the city itself probably for use as human shields. It also allegedly slaughtered several hundred people as it fled villages in the face of advances by the Iraqi forces. In the south it also set fire to a sulfur plant that led to toxic clouds floating to populated areas killing two and sickening up to 1,000.

Previous Reports


AIN, “International Coalition welcomes the opening Qayyarah Air Base,” 10/22/16

Bas News, "Assyrian Town Bartella Fully Liberated from IS," 10/22/16
- "IS Explodes Biggest Hotel in Mosul," 10/22/16

BBC, "Mosul battle: Iraqi army 'retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh," 10/18/16

Bora, Birce, “Analysis: What is Turkey trying to achieve in Iraq?” Al Jazeera, 10/14/16

Buratha News, "Martyrdom engineering official from Ashura Brigades," 10/22/16

Chulov, Martin, “Kurdish forces vow no retreat until Nineveh plains are retaken from Isis,” Guardian, 10/20/16

Dehghanpisheh, Babak and Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi army drives Islamic State from Christian region near Mosul,” Reuters, 10/22/16

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Oct. 22, 2016," 10/22/16

Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, "Iraq's U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops join attack on Mosul," Washington Post, 10/20/16

Al Maalomah, "Security forces free Taiwibh a village in southern Mosul," 10/22/16
- “Throwing millions of leaflets on the cities of Nineveh, Hawija, and Qaim,” 10/22/16

Al Mada, "Federal Police freed five villages west of advance," 10/22/16

Neuhof, Florian, “Step by step, peshmerga turn the screw on ISIL,” The National, 10/21/16

New Sabah, "New Sabah keeps pace with the victories over Daesh on all axes of Nineveh," 10/22/16

NINA, "Eight new villages liberated in the southern and eastern axes of the city of Mosul," 10/21/16

Rudaw, “Mosul battle day 6: Iraqi forces advance on Qaraqosh,” 10/22/16

Shafaq News, "Urgent..suicide attacks targeting the progress of the Iraqi forces east of Mosul," 10/22/16

Sobir, Shoguna, "IS Clams Executing Two Peshmerga: Unconfirmed Report," Bas News

Wedeman, Ben, Dewan, Angela and McKirdy, Euan, "Mosul: Most intense day of fighting since offensive began," CNN, 10/20/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi cameraman killed in battles near Mosul," 10/22/16
- "Iraqi forces recapture town from IS as troops push on Mosul," 10/22/16

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Five, Oct 21, 2016

The fifth day of the Mosul offensive was a slow one.

A few more towns were freed. The Federal Police and Army pushing towards Mosul from the south and east claimed to have freed seven villages during the day. In one of those towns the Islamic State launched four car bombs, but they were destroyed. Overall, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) said they had gone through 53 towns so far since the start of the operation on October 17.

Inside Mosul it was reported that the militants destroyed several churches on October 20. The day before it blew up several government buildings and some of its own offices. That raises the fear that IS may destroy sections of the city before it is forced out. The United Nations also reported that IS took over 500 people from two neighboring towns and forced them into Mosul. The fear was that they would be used as human shields once the fighting breaks out within the city itself.

Since the start of the operation there have been differing figures given on how many people have been displaced as a result. On October 21 the United Nations said 3,900 people had left Mosul and Hamdaniya district. The day before, the International Organization for Migration released a higher number of 5,640. It’s apparent that the various humanitarian groups in the area are seeing and registering different amounts of people, and have not been able to come to a consensus yet on the total.

Previous Reports on the Mosul operation:


Al Forat "Freed Good Hill south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Nineveh operations freed the village of Doizzat south-east axis of the Tigris and raise dthe Iraqi flag over it," 10/21/16
- "Security forces stormed the village of suspicion south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Urgent freed the village of Conception from Daash south of Mosul," 10/21/16
- "Urgent Iraqi army frees two villages in the eastern axis of the Battle of Mosul," 10/21/16

Al Maalomah, "Freed two village and discovered a half ton of ammonium nitrate," 10/21/16

-"Media Cell: freed 53 villages and killed 473 terrorists since the start of the Mosul operation," 10/21/16

Matti, Emad and Schreck, Adam, “IS Attacks Iraq City of Kirkuk, Power Plant Amid Mosul Fight,” Associated Press, 10/21/16

NINA, “Breaking News … Daesh Demolish Churches In Mosul,” 10/20/16

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Four, Oct 20, 2016

The Mosul operation increased in intensity on the fourth day. The Kurds opened up a new front to the north of the city and the elite Golden Division carried out its first attack as well. Several villages were freed, while the Islamic State appeared to be putting up a much harder fight than they did initially.

First, there were some new reports of progress and violence from October 19. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) took 10 towns. Five large Islamic State counter attacks involving multiple car bombs were reported. There was also a story that rockets knocked out an Iraqi tank. In Mosul the Islamists destroyed the Ninewa Governorate building and the Nationality and Passport Directorate along with several of the group’s own offices. It also hanged three people. IS might be embarking on a scorched earth campaign in parts of Mosul to leave nothing behind after it is expelled.

On October 20 the Peshmerga re-started their operations on a new front to the north of Mosul. Peshmerga moved towards the town of Bashiqa. Members of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), an Iranian-Kurdish dissident group were seen taking part in the new offensive. The day before U.S. and English Special Forces were seen amongst the Peshmerga. Some called in air strikes to support the new attack. Nine towns were reported free during the day.

The Kurds thrust to the east was stopped, and the elite Golden Division took their place attacking Bartella. That town was declared freed, but fighting was still going on in certain regions. In the east and south of Mosul another seven towns were reported freed by the ISF.

The new thrusts by the combined forces led to some tough counter attacks by the Islamic State. Seven large ones were reported with over two dozen car bombs being used. 4 reporters were injured in two such actions. A U.S. soldier also died of his wounds from an IED. Another 24 Peshmerga were killed, 133 wounded, and two soldiers. As usual Baghdad and Irbil are not officially reporting their losses so the totals are probably much higher.

There was more news about the civilian toll of the Mosul operation. The United Nations said that around 1,900 people had fled Mosul since the start of the campaign and been registered. 900 had gone to Syria. The International Organization for Migration had a higher figure of 5,640 since October 17.

Finally, in France there was an international meeting of twenty countries looking for support for post-IS Mosul. Holland pledge $1.1 million in aid as a result.


Associated Press, “World diplomats seek post-battle plan for ISIS bastion Mosul,” 10/20/16

Bas News, "Four News Crews Injured While Covering Anti-IS Operations North of Mosul," 10/20/16
- "IS Executes 16 People in Southern Mosul," 10/19/16
- "IS Explodes Administrative Buildings in Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Peshmerga Liberates a Christian Village in Northern Mosul," 10/20/16

eKurd, "Kurdish forces launch second massive offensive against IS near Iraq's Mosul," 10/20/16

Iraqi News, "Iraqi forces liberate more areas in Mosul, besiege Mishraq Company," 10/20/16
- "Mosul offensive: Peshmerga forces recapture Imam Reda village and Khorsabad road," 10/20/16

Kalin, Stephen and Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Mosul offensive going faster than planned, Iraqi PM says,” Reuters, 10/21/16

Kesling, Ben and El-Ghobashy, Tamer, “Iraq Captures Key Town Near Mosul,” Wall Street Journal, 10/20/16

Al Mada, "Daesh executed three Peshmerga detainees central Mosul," 10/20/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, "Iraq's U.S.-trained counterterrorism troops join attack on Mosul," Washington Post, 10/20/16

Rudaw, “LIVE UPDATES MOSL BATTLE: Day 3,” 10/19/16
- "LIVE UPDATES MOSUL BATTLE: Day 4," 10/20/16

Wedeman, Ben, Dewan, Angela and McKirdy, Euan, "Mosul: Most intense day of fighting since offensive began," CNN, 10/20/16,

World Bulletin, “Kurds in fresh push against ISIL near Mosul,” 10/20/16

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Three, Oct 19, 2016

On the third day of the Mosul campaign there was a decided slowdown in the pace of events. That was mostly by design as the Peshmerga halted their operations, and some of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were to shift from the south to the east to take off from where the Kurds stopped. At the same time, IS was putting up a tougher defense in the south.

The last two days were a period of pause and transition in the effort to re-take Mosul. The Peshmerga halted on October 18 along the Irbil-Mosul road in the Khazir district as part of the battle plan. They are preparing to attack the Bashiqa district. The ISF in Gwar to the south of the Kurds are supposed to move north and take up the advance from the Peshmerga in Khazir and attack Bartella.

South of Mosul the ISF continued to move forward, but at a slower rate than before, and faced their first setback. Four new towns were freed. At the same time, the Islamic State re-took two towns, Kani Hamran and Abassi, that were freed the day before by the Iraqi 9th and 15th Army Divisions. The ISF was able to move back into the former and was attacking the latter. Another town, Qaraqosh that was declared liberated yesterday also had fighting continue on October 19. The insurgents brought in civilians to act as human shields there.  

The Islamic State was active in other areas as well. It carried out a large assault in the Sinjar district in western Ninewa, perhaps in an attempt to draw away Peshmerga forces, but it was turned back. They also counter attacked in two small towns south of Mosul with car and truck bombs that were destroyed. Overall, those assaults killed two soldiers, and wounded 4 Peshmerga and 25 soldiers. In Azba and al-Hud 24 bodies of people executed by the militants were discovered.

The U.S.-led Coalition increased their support on the third day. The Commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq General Gary Voelsky told the press that American Apache helicopters were attacking IS positions in night operations. No other details were revealed such as where this was going on.

One of the big fears of this operation is that it could lead to a massive displacement and humanitarian disaster, but so far there has been a dispute about what impact the fighting has had so far. Save the Children claimed that 5,000 people crossed from Ninewa into Syria in the last ten days and entered the al-Hol refugee camp. The U.N. disagreed with that figure saying that some of those new arrivals were Syrians. It reported that 912 people had arrived in al-Hol in a 24 hour period.

Finally, in IS controlled areas there were more reports of killings and preparation for the fall of Mosul. Within the city Iraq Oil Report said that the group was burning documents so that they could not be captured. A person also claimed to have seen up to 100 men burned to death by the militants in the town of Tilool Nasir.


ARA News, “Kurdish Peshmerga prepare to seize Bashiqa,” 10/19/16

Associated Press, “US general says Apache helicopters on attack in Iraq,” 10/19/16

Bas News, "IS Executes 16 People in Southern Mosul," 10/19/16

BBC, “Mosul battle: Escaping civilians facing ‘dire conditions,’” 10/19/16
- "Mosul battle: Iraqi army 'retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh," 10/18/16

Beale, Jonathan "Mosul: Intense battles with IS on road to Iraqi city," BBC, 10/19/16

Iraq Oil Report, "Inside Mosul: Oct. 19, 2016," 10/19/16

Iraqi News, "Federal Police forces kill 21 ISIS militants in Bojwana village near Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Federal Police forces liberate 352 km2 of areas south of Mosul," 10/19/16
- "Iraq security forces liberate 3 villages south of Mosul," 10/19/16
- "ISIS attacks Peshmerga with booby-trapped vehicles and 250 militants in Sinjar," 10/19/16

Lister, Tim, Damon, Arwa, Walsh, Nick Paton and Dewan, Angela, “Iraqi-led forces clash with ISIS in push to free Christian town,” CNN, 10/19/16

Shafaq News, "Found eight bodies including a former army officer executed by Daesh before withdrawing from the village of Al Hud," 10/19/16

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day Two, Oct 18, 2016

In the second day of the Mosul campaign the advance towards the city slowed. The Kurds halted to consolidate what they had taken the day before, while the Iraqi forces in the south continued to move forward. That was by design, although some Peshmerga and western news reports tried to blame the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). There were reports and photographs of western advisers being at the frontlines with the Kurds. On the other hand, the Islamic State was trying to maintain control of its areas.

The Iraqi forces are advancing in two columns from the south on both sides of the Tigris River. On October 18 they freed Qaraqosh, Zawiya, Abassi, Lihoud, Khuder al-Yas, Bajwaniya, Tal al-Samen, Shura, and Hamdaniya. When the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division entered Hud, Islamic State fighters fled, taking around 70 civilians with them to use as human shields. On their way north they forced people from three more towns out of their homes, added them to their makeshift convoy, and executed several people who tried to stop them. 56 oil fields were also freed in the Ain-Ghash area of Qayara. Special Forces commander General Haider al-Obeidi said that they expected weak resistance in the opening phases of the campaign as IS was going to abandon many towns to consolidate in other areas.

There was another report that locals rose up in the town of Lazzagah and expelled the militants. This was the second or third village to do so depending upon which sources are consulted.

To the west, the Peshmerga stopped their advance. The BBC quoted a Kurdish colonel saying that the Peshmerga had reached all of their initial goals on the first day. Now they were to halt as part of the battle plan and wait for the Iraqi army to take the lead. That didn’t stop a few Peshmerga from bad mouthing the Iraqi forces in the press.

The Kurds were not completely silent on the second day however as a Counter Terrorism Unit flew into Hamdaniya for a raid. They destroyed several Islamic State vehicles and three car bombs before they could be used. The unit took some losses, but no figures on how many.

Western advisers are posted with the Kurds. Canadian Special Forces have been training the Peshmerga for two years now, and have been working along the frontlines as well. American Special Forces have also been photographed and filmed with the Kurds. This has been going on for months now given the friendlier and pro-western stance of the Kurds compared to the rest of the country where the Special Forces could run into pro-Iranian Hashd that have rejected the U.S.-led Coalition and threatened to attack westerners.

U.S. and Coalition forces are also providing air and artillery support. The skies above the battle space are full of U.S. and coalition aircraft and drones collecting intelligence and delivering air strikes. American and French artillery are also positioned in Ninewa and firing upon Islamic State positions.

There appeared to be very little fighting during the day. A suicide car bomb did attack the ISF in Nasir and a suicide bomber hit an Iraqi convoy in Bilawet. Casualties were reported but no specifics given. The Iraqi forces also destroyed four car bombs.

In Mosul, IS was reported to be moving around its fighters, while most of the city has shut down. Residents of Mosul contacted by Reuters by phone dismissed the many claims that Islamic State fighters were fleeing Mosul. Iraq Oil Report said that they had moved from the left to right bank of the city. There were two shootouts with resistance groups within Mosul. Most people are said to be staying inside their homes and most shops have closed. While aid agencies are afraid of massive displacement when the fighting for the city starts, there are so few IS fighters available for the defense that major parts of the metropolis may be untouched and residents will simply hunker down in their domiciles waiting for their liberation.

Finally, in Hamam al-Alil, which the ISF is close to reaching the Islamic State is attempting to maintain control. There was a news story that its men were going around flying Iraqi flags from cars and posing as members of the security forces to try to trick civilians into greeting them. 40 people were arrested and reportedly executed by IS as a result of this operation.


BBC, “Mosul battle: Iraqi army ‘retakes Christian town of Qaraqosh,’” 10/18/16

Dehghanpisheh, Babak and Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq launches Mosul offensive to drive out Islamic State,” Reuters, 10/17/16

eKurd, "Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief - October 18, 2016," 10/18/16

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Oct. 18, 2016,” 10/18/16

Iraqi News, “Federal Police forces recapture 56 oil fields form ISIS near Mosul,” 10/18/16
- "Iraqi forces liberate al-Shura district south of Mosul," 10/18/16

Knights, Michael, “The Liberation of Mosul Will Go Better Than You Think,” Foreign Policy, 10/17/16

Kesling, Ben, “Tensions Arise Among Allies Fighting to Retake ISIS-Held Mosul,” Wall Street Journal, 10/18/16

Al Maalomah, “Daesh trying to tempt the people of Mosul and executed 40 men and teenagers,” 10/18/16

Al Mada, "Federal Police announced the destruction of five car bombs and kill 21 Daash south Mosul," 10/18/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, “Tough resistance from Islamic State slows Iraqi advance on Mosul,” Washington Post, 10/18/16

New Sabah, "Security forces stormed the Hamdaniya district without resistance and Daesh flee toward Mosul," 10/18/16

Reuters, “Canadian troops supporting Kurds in fight in Iraq’s Mosul operation: Sajjan,” 10/18/16

Xinhua, "Iraqi forces recapture more villages around IS-held Mosul," 10/18/16

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mosul Campaign Day One, Oct 17, 2016

The battle for Mosul has finally begun. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi announced the beginning of the operation on October 16. Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called it a “historic day,” and it was. While the Islamic State still holds territory in western Anbar along the Syrian border and the Hawija and Riyad areas of southern Kirkuk, Mosul is the organization’s unofficial capital. It was the first major city that the group took when it launched its summer offensive in 2014, and holds great symbolic significance for both it and the Iraqi government. Taking it back will not mean the death knell of IS, but it will be a huge setback to lose a key piece in its caliphate.

Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi promised to free Mosul by the end of the year, so there was immense pressure to get the forces in place and reach a broad agreement amongst all the stakeholders, facilitated by the United States, about their different roles. As a result, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is supposed to be the only ones that enter Mosul itself. The Peshmerga and Hashd are to hold the perimeter. The fear is that if either of those two would go into the city it could turn the population against not only the liberating forces, but the government as well. As Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently noted this operation offers Baghdad a great opportunity to win over the population of Mosul, which has been a hotbed of anti-government and insurgent activity since the U.S. invasion.

The question as ever is whether these agreements will hold. A similar one was made before the Fallujah operation that the Hashd would stay out of the city. As it turned out, Badr members in the Federal Police took part in the battle. The Hashd also claimed that they fought to liberate the Jolan neighborhood in the north of the city. Mosul is such a prize to all the forces involved that they may not be able to resist the temptation to enter it.

That also hints at the difficulties that might emerge after Mosul is taken. Many of the fighting parties would like to claim the city and parts of Ninewa as well. The central government wants to re-integrate Mosul into the country after it has been under the Islamic State’s control for two years. The Kurds may not be interested in running the city itself, but are interested in annexing much of the territory around it and to the south that they say are parts of the disputed areas. Masrour Barzani for example, the son of the Kurdish president said that they would not give up any of the land that it freed from the militants. In turn, members of the pro-Iranian factions of the Hashd have responded that they would not allow the Kurds to seize anything during the Mosul offensive. Former Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi would also like to play a part in his attempt to return to power. As a result, his Hashd al-Watani expressed that they would join in the campaign. He and the Barzanis’ Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are aligned with Turkey, which has a small camp in Bashiqa to the northeast. It wants to use the offensive to assert its hegemony over Ninewa. There is also the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkey, which is based in Sinjar to the west. They have said that they too will attack Mosul along with their Yazidi allies. While some suggested that Mosul should be put off due to all of these conflicting agendas and some sort of political deal be made beforehand that probably would have not worked. Whatever agreement was made could have been overturned by facts on the ground after the battle was over. Negotiations on the future of Mosul and Ninewa therefore are best done afterward.

The actual campaign could be a long one. That’s due to the sheer size of Mosul, which is almost as big as Baghdad. Surrounding it and coordinating between the various groups, many of which do not get along could be a difficult task.

So far the Iraqi forces are advancing along two axes, with the Kurds in the east. Up to 10,000 Peshmerga have set out along the Irbil-Mosul highway. They entered the Khazir area heading towards Bartella and Hamdaniya. The Islamic State set oil wells in the latter on fire to try to prevent air strikes by blocking aerial views of the battlefield. The Kurds claimed they freed ten villages on the first day. In the process they fought off several car and suicide bombings. The press reported that a total of 8 Peshmerga were killed and 11 wounded in the process.

To the south the ISF and Hashd are moving forward from its base in Qayara. The elite Golden Division and army brigades are going up the eastern side of the Tigris River, which leads to Mosul, while other army units and Interior Ministry forces are to the east of the river. The army’s 9th Division said that it liberated six villages on October 16. The ISF also claimed to have killed six suicide bombes. Overall, the media reported that one soldier lots his life and two others were injured during the fighting.

It didn’t appear that there were many IS fighters on either axis. In at least one village it was said that people rose up against the Islamic State and expelled them.

Until the joint forces reach Mosul itself the areas to the west are still under the insurgents control. That will give them an escape route. One Iraqi official told the Washington Post that they were hoping that the militants would give up and flee that way, while an Iraqi general said that the western regions would be targeted by Iraqi aircraft to kill IS elements that might be moving through there.

In Mosul itself there are continued stories of hardships. Its been said that there are only a few hours of electricity available, some areas lack running water, the schools did not open this year, and that IS is carrying out recruiting drives of both young and old to bolster their defenses. Kurdish sources claimed that up to 300 suspected IS deserters have been caught in the last month amongst displaced people. Finally, there are many reports of resistance groups carrying out scattered attacks upon IS in Mosul and the surrounding areas. Islamic State propaganda on the other hand, is trying to portray life as going on normally within the city.

Overall, the first day of the Mosul operation made good progress with little resistance. That will likely change in the coming period when the insurgents’ first line of defense is met. When the city itself is reached the sheer size of it will also pose new challenges as well. The Fallujah campaign however may show that Mosul will go down quicker than some believe. In the former, most of the residents remained in the city along with IS families and leadership. That meant that the group could not build its usual defense in depth right into the heart of the urban areas because there were people in the way. The group for example, couldn’t lay down IED fields in populated districts or booby trap as many homes. What civilians can be used for are human shields, but that is no substitute for sound military preparations. In the end, the city will fall. It is only a matter of time.


Arango, Tim, “A Tour of Falluja Reveals Grim Remnants of Life Under ISIS,” New York Times, 6/22/16

Bas News, “Sunni Forces Trained by Turkey Participating in Mosul Assault: Official,” 10/17/16

eKurd, “Iraqi Kurdistan News in brief – October 17, 2016,” 10/17/16

Iraqi News, “Forces advance to liberate ISIS’ last bastion in central Fallujah,” 6/25/16
- “Iraqi Joint forces liberate 6 villages near Mosul,” 10/17/16
- “Mosul offensive: Iraqi army advances from eastern axis of Nineveh 4 villages liberated,” 10/17/16
- “Mosul offensive: Peshmerga forces approach Bartella and Hamdaniyah,” 10/17/16

Kalin, Stephen and Dmitry Zhdannikov, “Exclusive: U.S. helped clinch Iraq oil deal to keep Mosul battle on track,” Reuters, 10/3/16

Al Mada, “The army and the Peshmerga are moving to the east and south of Mosul .. Daesh are preparing to move to the right coast of the city,” 10/17/16
- “The joint forces isolating Fallujah after the liberation of Garma and Nuaimiya on the first day of the start of the operation,” 5/23/16
- “Operations: Hawija will not be freed first before the popular crowd is tasked with cordoning off Mosul,” 10/17/16

Al Masalah, "Six suicide bombers killed trying to storm the army lines south of Mosul," 10/17/16

Morris, Loveday, “Battle to banish Islamic State from Mosul could become a mess,” Washington Post, 10/12/16

Morris, Loveday and Fahim, Kareem, “Iraqi attack on Mosul begins as forces push toward Islamic State stronghold,” Washington Post, 10/17/16

NINA, “Washington Refuses PKK’s Participation in Mosul Operations,” 10/15/16

Nordland, Rod, “Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul, a Beleaguered Stronghold for ISIS,” New York Times, 10/16/16

Osgood, Patrick and Tahir, Rawaz, “Operation to liberate Mosul begins,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/17/16

Rudaw, “Live Updates: the battle for Mosul,” 10/17/16
- “Sunni militia to come under Peshmerga command for Mosul operation,” 10/4/16

Sattar, Sardar, “Masrour Barzani: Peshmerga to Stay in Newly-liberated Areas,” Bas News, 10/17/16

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces fighting all out to free Mosul from IS,” 10/17/16

Monday, October 17, 2016

Security In Iraq, Oct 8-14, 2016

The second week of October 2016 saw a general lull in violence in Iraq. The government forces were still at work in Hit Island in Anbar, while preparing for the offensive to take Mosul. The Islamic State continued to focus upon terrorism in Baghdad, but carried out no real counterattacks leading to the low numbers during the week.

There were 118 incidents reported in Iraq from October 8-14, 2016. That was one of the lowest figures recorded in the year and represents the ebb and flow seen throughout the year. Baghdad saw the most violence with 66 incidents. After that there were 14 in Kirkuk, 14 in Ninewa, 10 in Diyala, 6 in Anbar, 5 in Salahaddin, 2 in Babil, and 1 in Basra.

175 people were reported killed and 350 wounded during the week. 1 Sahwa, 4 Hashd, 14 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 156 civilians died and 2 Peshmerga, 4 Hashd, 32 ISF, and 312 civilians were injured. Baghdad was the deadliest province with 93 fatalities followed by 26 in Ninewa, 24 in Kirkuk, 14 in Diyala, 13 in Salahddin, 3 in Anbar, and 1 in Basra.

The Iraqi forces continued their campaign to clear the area from Ramadi to Haditha in central Anbar. The Hit Island district was declared freed after a month of fighting. Usually this provokes a large number of counter attacks by the Islamic State, but it only carried out five reported ones during the week. There were only 6 incidents total reported, leading to 3 fatalities and 12 wounded.

As violence has dropped off across the country it has picked up once again in Baghdad. Part of IS’s strategy is to give ground to the government, while regrouping in the rural areas, and carry out terrorist attacks in the capital to undermine the state’s standing. That has led to an average of 9-10 attacks per day in Baghdad province. There were 66 incidents with 93 dead and 285 injured in the second week of October. That included a car bomb at a checkpoint in the outer south and a suicide bombing in the north at a funeral. There were also 42 IEDs and 6 sticky bombs. There were 21 incidents each in the north and south where IS has been most active, especially in the outer towns. After that there were 13 incidents in the east, and 11 in the west.

Incidents in Diyala continued to go up and down. The deadliest was a suicide car bombing that left 9 dead and 11 wounded. Another suicide bomber was arrested. Nearly every week IS has attempted mass casualty attacks in the province. Overall there were 10 incidents, 14 dead and 17 injured.

Casualties have picked up in Kirkuk in recent weeks not because of fighting, but due to executions and displaced people being killed. This is because government forces are close to finally attacking Hawija in the southern section of the province, the last district under IS control. In response, IS executed 15 people with another 12 displaced people were killed and 28 wounded trying to escape militant areas. For the week there were 14 incidents leading to 25 people losing their lives and 29 wounded.

In Ninewa there was the usual mix of attacks upon government forces and executions by IS. A total of 18 people were killed by the organization in Mosul. It also carried out six attacks including a suicide bombing and three truck bombs all of which were defeated. Turkish artillery was also blamed for wounding three civilians. Ankara’s forces in the province became a huge controversy again during October when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not only said that Turkey would take part in the up coming Mosul operation after Baghdad’s objections, but then insulted Prime Minister Haidar Abadi by saying that the Iraqi leader was not on his level.

In previous weeks IS operations in Salahaddin were going up, but there was a dip the second week of October. The Islamic State carried out five low level attacks in the central and northern sections of the governorate.

There were just two successful car bombs from October 8-14, another sign that violence has been on the decline. Those were in Baghdad and Diyala leaving 10 dead and 15 injured. The government claimed it destroyed another 5, 2 in Anbar and 3 in Ninewa.

Violence In Iraq 2016
Jul 1-7
Jul 8-14
Jul 15-21
Jul 22-28
Jul 29-31
Aug 1-7
Aug 8-14
Aug 15-21
Aug 22-28
Aug 29-31
Sep 1-7
Sep 8-14
Sep 15-21
Sep 22-28
Sep 29-30
Oct 1-7
Oct 8-14

Security By Province Oct 8-14, 2016
6 Incidents
3 Killed
12 Wounded
3 Shootings
2 Suicide Bombers Killed
2 Car Bombs Destroyed
2 Incidents
66 Incidents
93 Killed
285 Wounded
12 Shootings
42 IEDs
6 Sticky Bombs
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Car Bomb
2 Grenades
1 Incident
1 Killed
1 Shooting
10 Incidents
14 Killed
17 Wounded
3 Shootings
2 IEDs
1 Suicide Car Bomb
2 Mortars
1 Suicide Bomber Arrested
14 Incidents
25 Killed
29 Wounded
3 Shootings
6 IEDs
1 Rockets
14 Incidents
26 Killed
3 Wounded
4 Shootings
2 Mortars
1 Rockets
1 Turkish Artillery
3 Suicide Truck Bombs Destroyed
1 Suicide Bomber Killed
5 Incidents
13 Killed
4 Wounded
2 Shootings
3 IEDs
1 Rockets

Car Bombs In Iraq Oct, 2016
Car Bombs
Oct 1

Oct 2

Oct 3
Qayara, Ninewa – 6 destroyed

Oct 4

Oct 5
Hit, Anbar – 4 destroyed
Khalis, Diyala – 1 destroyed

Oct 6

Oct 7

0 – 11 Destroyed

Oct 8
Arab Jabour, Baghdad
Baaj, Salahadd – 3 destroyed
Oct 9
Azim, Diyala
Oct 10

Oct 11
Ana, Anbar – 2 destroyed

Oct 12

Oct 13

Oct 14

2 – 5 Destroyed


AIN, "Diyala: the martyrdom and wounding seven policemen by a car bomb," 10/9/16

Bora, Birce, “Analysis: What is Turkey trying to achieve in Iraq?” Al Jazeera, 10/14/16

Iraqi News, "Mahalawi announces Heet Island fully liberated from ISIS," 10/11/16
- "Security forces repulse ISIS attack near Mosul, 6 militants killed," 10/8/16

Al Maalomah, "The death toll in New Baghdad seven dead and 21 wounded," 10/9/16

Al Mada, "Turkish bombings kill civilians in village north of Mosul," 10/9/16

NINA, "Anbar Operations Liberate Baker Neighborhood And 3 Other Villages In Anbar," 10/10/16
- "Vehicle bombs destroyed, and terrorists killed in an airstrike western Anbar," 10/11/16

Rudaw, "Suicide Car bombing kills 9 north of Baghdad," 10/9/16
- "UPDATED: Baghdad suicide bombing kills at least 6 on Ashura," 10/9/16
- "UPDATED: Iraqi army convoy attacked and bombing in Baghdad, casualties reported," 10/8/16

Sotaliraq, "A suicide bomber wearing an explosive bet trying to target a funeral procession arrested in Khalis," 10/10/16

World Bulletin, "Iraqi army, allies take strategic Anbar road from ISIL," 10/14/16

Xinhua, “Iraq summons Turkish ambassador over Erdogan’s comments on Mosul battle,” 10/5/16
- "Security forces free 5 villages in Iraq's Anbar province," 10/9/16