Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 162, March 27, 2017


Comparison of maps of Old City district of west Mosul March 19 vs March 27. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division are pushing from the south and have made no real advances over the last week. The Golden Division has advanced along the western section of the district however to attack the Islamic State from the flank.
Green is liberated, Red contested, Gold is Islamic State, Blue is the Tigris River (Iraqi Day)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) made contradictory remarks about their operations in Mosul. General Othman Ghanmi army chief of staff issued a statement that 50% of west Mosul was now under government control. ISF commanders have issued different figures and percentages on their progress based upon varying measurements. 50% is roughly right based upon the area of west Mosul. General Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah said there was no time limit on how long it would take to free the rest of the city. The government forces are fighting street to street, and the weather has been a hindrance as well. On the other hand the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command claimed that the battle for Mosul was done. The battle in fact has hit a stalemate forcing the Iraqi forces to change their battle plan. What is new is that the Golden Division has moved up the western side of the Old City district and to prepare to attack the Islamic State from its flank. Federal Police Commander Raed Jawadat stated that the Federal Police and the Rapid Reaction Division were making rapid progress in their assault upon the Old City. Some small advances were made. The two police forces are still aiming to taking the Grand Mosque in the district. The Golden Division’s General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi told the press that the Islamic State’s defenses had been destroyed around the mosque. That’s yet to be seen as the police are still roughly in the same area they have been for over a week now. Finally, according to a Federal Police officer reinforcements and 80 armored personnel carriers arrived as part of the change in tactics in the campaign. Those will not likely be used in the Old City where many of the streets are too narrow for vehicles to be used. They could also just be replacements to make up for losses.


The ISF are still putting out disinformation about the Jadida incident. An inquiry by the Joint Operations Command found 130 people had been forced into a house by the Islamic State, and snipers put on the roof. A car bomb was destroyed outside, which led to the collapse of the building and the civilian casualties. This happened in Hajj however not Jadida. Yesterday the Iraqi forces claimed that IS had booby trapped a house with civilians in it and no air strike was involved. That was not in Jadida either, but Resala. The point of these statements is to put out as much contradictory information as possible to mislead the press and public, while denying any air strike took place. The booby trapped house story for example was widely reported in the international press, but not the fact that it didn't happen in Jadida. The government’s official line is that casualties are not to be reported, and when deadly events like this occur they are to be attacked and discredited.

Speaking of air strikes, two occurred in two separate neighborhoods of west Mosul. The Coalition was blamed, and 43 people in total were killed.

There were more civilian deaths due to the Islamic State as well. The group shot an imam, and 6 were killed in a mortar attack.

U.S. Special Forces operative on right dressed in black to look like Iraqi Counter Terrorism troops on the left (Army Complex)

The Military Times revealed that U.S. Special Forces are trying to camouflage their presence amongst the Iraqi forces inside Mosul. Several pictures were posted on social media of Americans wearing black uniforms similar to the Golden Division’s. American flags were seen patched onto the back of one U.S. operative to distinguish himself from the Iraqis. Under President Trump U.S. forces are now being forward deployed with the ISF. Donning black is likely a way to hide their presence, and not make them targets of IS fire.

The Ninewa Council voted to declare Ninewa a disaster area. A majority of the members passed the proposal. There was no information given on what this meant in terms of dealing with the affects of the fighting. Since neither the province nor the central government has much money it’s unclear what could happen.

Civilians in Mosul are in a desperate situation. Both sides of the city are facing severe shortages of food, water, and basic services. Some volunteer groups are attempting to do what they can. Diwaniya Civil Committee is a volunteer group from Qadisiyah that collected donations from their province, and is now handing out aid to people inside the city. They said they are following the call by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to do charitable work and help the country’s Sunnis. The Academy of Emergency Medicine from Slovakia is providing medical support inside west Mosul where all the heavy fighting is taking place. The Iraqi forces also hand out food and water when they can. Few other organizations nor the government are otherwise present in the city, leaving many people in need.

The displacement crisis in Ninewa is continuing to develop. Families leaving west Mosul are reporting more casualties from air and mortar attacks. There are people still coming out of east Mosul as well from the Sumer, Intisar and Gogjali neighborhoods due to a lack of services and jobs. The camps south of the city are overflowing and there are several thousand spaces available in a camp to the east. The Iraqi authorities are not telling the displaced (IDPs) about it however, and not providing much transportation their either. This has been going on for weeks now despite pleas by the United Nations to fix it, pointing official mismanagement. There are now thousands of people camping around Hamam al-Alil, which is where IDPs are sent when they come out of the city. They say they don’t want to go to camps because they can’t leave, and want to stay close to Mosul to return as soon as they can. The United Nations complained that Kurdish security forces were confiscating IDs of people when they entered camps there so they couldn’t leave, and then weren’t given them back when they got permission to do so. Baghdad has also banned returns to four villages south of Mosul. No reason has been given, and that has led to complaints. A growing number of people are requesting permission to relocate to other provinces rather than go back to their homes. A worker from the Mosul Security Directorate said 1,000-1,500 permits were being issued per day in January to move. Many of these are professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers. Many say they have nothing to go back to and they have already re-started in other areas such as Kurdistan. Many doctors for example have set up offices in Irbil. Other factors are the continued shelling by the Islamic State of liberated areas, and the fear that IS could return and target them. These all show the constantly changing dynamics of IDPs. People are constantly moving in and out of the city. Some want to get back as soon as they can, some are barred from returning, while others feel they need a new start in a different location.

SOURCES

Baghdad Post, "ISIS killed Mosque's Imam in Mosul right bank," 3/27/17

Balkiz, Ghazi, Mohammad, Muwafaq and Damon, Arwa, “Mosul: 112 civilian bodies pulled from site of coalition airstrike,” CNN, 3/27/17

BBC, “Scale of Mosul civilian deaths alarms Amnesty International,” 3/27/17

Buratha News, “Joint forces reveal the results of the Mosul massacre,” 3/27/17
- “Ninewa Operations Command: No time limit to resolve the battle fighting in the alleys and streets,” 3/27/17
- “Rapid progress by security forwards towards southwest Mosul,” 3/27/17

deGrandpre, Andrew, “Inside Mosul, U.S. military advisers wear black to blend in with elite Iraqi units,” Military Times, 3/26/17

Kimball, Sam, “Mosul air strikes: ‘Everything crashed down upon us,’” Al Jazeera, 3/27/17

Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: March 27, 2017,” 3/28/17

Al Maalomah, "Civil Defense Forces excavate six bodies from the rubble in Jadida," 3/27/17

Middle East Eye, “Battle for Mosul: ‘We’ll probably kill him later. The prisons in Baghdad are full,’” 3/27/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "43 more civilians killed in western Mosul airstrikes," Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Army chief says 50% of western Mosul under troops control,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Iraqi command: western Mosul battle finished “on a military level,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- “Shia paramilitary wants U.S. troops excluded to keep Mosul battle “clean,”” Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Mousa, Ahmad with Karim, Ammar, "Iraq forces launch renewed attack on Mosul's Old City," Agence France Presse, 3/27/17

Mustafa, Nehal, “Civilian deaths, Old City fight force Mosul battle rethink,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17
- "IS member injured, wife killed in explosion western Mosul," Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Nehal, Mustafa, “Iraqi police advance to south of central Mosul’s Old City: commander,” Iraqi News, 3/27/17

Neuhof, Florian, “Amid the Mosul Massacres, There is Also Mercy,” Daily Beast, 3/26/17

New Sabah, “Daesh front lines destroyed near the Great Mosque and Hadbaa lighthouse in Mosul city,” 3/27/17
- “Ninewa Council votes to declare the province a disaster area,” 3/27/17

Oda, Suha, “Why aren’t Mosul residents returning to liberated areas?” Al Monitor, 3/27/17

Rudaw, “Many displaced people from Mosul return home says migration organization,” 3/27/17
- “US central command investigating Mosul’s deadly bombing,” 3/27/17

Shafaaq News, "Iraqi forces cut off 5 areas by penetrating into the Old City of Mosul," 3/27/17
- "Popular crowd foils biggest attack by Daish west of Tal Afar," 3/27/17
- “Urgent: the arrival of large military reinforcements to the battle of Mosul for new tactics,” 3/27/17

Sotaliraq, "A suicide bomber was killed south of Mosul," 3/27/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Mosul Weekly Protection Update, 18-24 March, 2017,” 3/24/17

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Musings On Iraq In The News

I was mentioned in “Is Donald Trump to Raqqa and Mosul what Assad was to Aleppo?” by Alastair Sloan for Middle East Monitor.