Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 134, Feb 27, 2017


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

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Violence In Iraq Feb 15-21, 2017


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

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

Mosul Campaign Day 133, Feb 26, 2017


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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

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

Mosul Campaign Day 132, Feb 25, 2017


(Medecins Sans Frontieres)

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 131, Feb 24, 2017


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

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 130, Feb 23, 2017


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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 129, Feb 22, 2017


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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 128, Feb 21, 2017


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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 127, Feb 20, 2017


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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 126, Feb 19, 2017


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

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 125, Feb 18, 2017


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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 124, Feb 17, 2017


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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Violence In Iraq Feb 8-14, 2017


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

Mosul Campaign Day 123, Feb 16, 2017


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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 122, Feb 15, 2017


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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 121, Feb 14, 2017


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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 120, Feb 13, 2017


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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 119 Feb. 12, 2017


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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News


Survey Finds Internet In Iraq Reinforces Sectarian Views


In 2015 during the Shiite pilgrimages of Arabeen to the shrine city of Karbala a group of researches from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) interviewed 1,668 Iranians and 2,410 Iraqis. One of the things they were asked about was where they got their news from, and how it affected their views. The vast majority of Iraqis, 89.7% got their news from TV. 69.9% said they received their information from friends and family. 48.5% read the Internet, 27.2% received it from their mosque, 9.5% read newspapers and magazines, and 8.4% listened to the radio. Social media and Internet calling and texting services were also important with 53% using Facebook, 49% using Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp, 43% using YouTube, and 26% emailing.

The survey found that those that got their news from traditional sources such as the TV, newspapers and radio were more pro-government. Those that had more access to media than conventional ones had more varied friends of other sects and less traditional views. Finally, people who only got their news from the Internet were not only more conservative, but also more sectarian to. It seemed that rather using the Internet to search out information, Iraqis instead used it to find sources that supported their established views and reinforced their sectarian opinions.

SOURCES

Christia, Fotini, Dekeyser, Elizabeth, Knox, Dean, “To Karbala: Surveying Religious Shi’a from Iran and Iraq,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 10/20/16


Mosul Campaign Day 118, Feb 11, 2017

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It turns out yesterday’s violence was even worse than initially reported. Instead of one there were actually three car bombs in east Mosul. Those resulted in 15 deaths and 9 wounded. On February 11 two suicide bombers were killed. Even though fighting is over in east Mosul the insurgents continue to take a heavy toll on civilians in the liberated areas. Army Chief of Staff General Othman al-Ghanemi claimed that it would take 30 days to eliminate all the sleeper cells. The security forces (ISF) are conducting sweeps through neighborhoods, and extra units have been sent in to help. Even if those were all wiped out there would still be the shelling, drone strikes and infiltration attempts to deal with.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Violence In Iraq, Feb. 1-7, 2017


Ninewa and Baghdad were the two main drivers of violence during the first week of February 2017. Those two had the most incidents. There were a total of 123 reported in Iraq with 50 in Ninewa, 31 in Baghdad, 17 in Diyala, 9 in Anbar, 7 in Salahaddin, 4 in Kirkuk, 2 each in Babil and Basra, and 1 in Irbil.

Those led to 388 dead and 176 wounded. The former consisted of 1 Iranian Revolutionary Guards adviser, 1 Peshmerga, 2 Hashd, 21 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and 363 civilians, with another 15 Hashd, 39 ISF, and 122 civilians injured.

By province 183 died in Ninewa, 150 in Babil, 22 in Baghdad, 11 each in Diyala and Kirkuk, 8 in Anbar, 2 in Salahaddin, and 1 in Irbil.

Anbar is one of the provinces in which the Islamic State is increasing its activities. During the week there were 9 incidents. The biggest was a car bomb at a checkpoint. Three others were destroyed along with 2 suicide bombers. Most of the violence was in the western section of the governorate.

In Babil a mass grave was discovered in Mahawil with 150 bodies in it. These were likely victims of the insurgents from when they controlled sections of the province a few years ago.

Baghdad is another area where IS has picked up its attacks in the last month. There were a total of 31 incidents. 22 people were killed and 75 wounded as a result. As usual the main form of attack were 20 IEDs. A car bomb was discovered and dismantled as well. As usual, most of the incidents occurred in the south, 13, and north, 9, with another 7 in the west, 7 in the east, and 1 in the center.

Diyala was the third province where there have been more attacks. There were 17 during the week, the third highest in the country. As usual this was a mix of low-level shootings and IEDs along with mass casualty bombings. On one day three car bombs went off in two incidents killing 3 and wounding 8.

As usual most of the violence in Kirkuk were executions. 11 people died during the week, the Islamic State in Hawija killed 5 of those for spying. Another 5 bodies were found in two other incidents.

East Mosul was liberated at the end of January, but the Islamic State has launched a steady stream of attacks there and against the Hashd in the west. Everyday there is shelling and drone strikes on the liberated parts of Mosul taking a heavy toll on civilians. IS is also still making fruitless attacks in the open plains of Ninewa against the Hashd. Of the 183 killed and 58 wounded, 1 was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser killed in the Tal Afar district, the Islamic State executed 32, Coalition air strikes were blamed for 42 deaths and 24 injured, and the remaining 108 fatalities and 34 wounded were all due to insurgent operations against east Mosul.

Salahaddin’s governor has been complaining about the deterioration of security in the province. He called on Baghdad to intervene. At the start of February however insurgent activity was at a low level with an average of just incident per day. Most of these attacks are occurring in the eastern sections of the governorate where IS still holds bases. A number of power towers were also blown up and knocked down north of Samarra in the center.

Violence In Iraq By Month 2016-2017
Month
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan
723
2,418
1,986
Feb
657
1,685
1,724
Mar
683
1,685
2,095
1st Qtr Daily
Avg/91
22.6
63.6
63.7
Apr
630
1,840
1,904
May
675
1,644
2,484
Jun
631
2,111
6,455
2nd Qtr Daily
Avg/91
21.2
61.4
119.1
Jul
531
1,329
1,708
Aug
574
1,263
1,376
Sep
573
1,203
1,602
3rd Qtr Daily
Avg/92
18.2
41.2
50.9
Oct
589
2,965
2,376
Nov
599
4,389
3,972
Dec
583
1,559
11,681
4th Qtr Daily
Avg/92
19.2
96.8
195.6
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
134
JAN
712
1,871
4,098
Feb 1-7
123
388
176

Province
Violence
Anbar
9 Incidents
8 Killed: 4 ISF, 4 Civilians
8 Wounded: 1 Civilian, 7 ISF
3 Shootings
1 Car Bomb
2 Suicide Bombers Killed
2 Suicide Car Bombs Destroyed
3 Car Bombs Destroyed
Babil
2 Incidents
150 Killed: 150 Civilians
8 Wounded: 8 Hashd
1 IED
Baghdad
31 Incidents
22 Killed: 2 ISF, 20 Civilians
75 Wounded: 1 Hashd, 8 ISF, 66 Civilians
5 Shootings
20 IEDs
3 Sticky Bombs
1 Car Bomb Dismantled
Basra
2 Incidents
1 IED
1 Sound Bomb
Diyala
17 Incidents
11 Killed: 1 Hashd, 5 ISF, 5 Civilians
16 Wounded: 2 Civilians, 3 Hashd, 11 ISF
6 Shootings
10 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
3 Car Bombs
Irbil
1 Incident
1 Killed: 1 Civilian
1 Shooting
Kirkuk
4 Incidents
11 Killed: 1 Peshmerga, 10 Civilians
1 Shooting
Ninewa
50 Incidents
183 Killed: 1 IRGC, 9 ISF, 173 Civilians
58 Wounded: 8 ISF, 50 Civilians
12 Shootings
3 Car Bombs
12 Mortars
7 Rockets
5 Drone Strikes
2 Suicide Bombers Arrested/Killed
13 Car Bombs Destroyed
Salahaddin
7 Incidents
2 Killed: 1 ISF, 1 Hashd
11 Wounded: 3 Civilians, 3 Hashd, 5 ISF
4 Shootings
3 IEDs

SOURCES

Adel, Loaa, "Airstrike destroys booby-trapped vehicle west of Karbala," Iraqi News, 2/1/17
- "Iraqi army kills 16 IS militants, destroys 2 car bombs near Anbar," Iraqi News, 2/5/17
- "IS attacks security forces, kills and wounds 4 army members," Iraqi News, 2/7/17
- "Islamic State executes 5 civilians on charges of spying in Hawija," Iraqi News, 2/1/17
- "US-led coalition airstrike destroys car bomb, kills suicide bomber near Anbar," 2/7/17

Buratha News, "Army thwarted suicide attack targeting army checkpoint on the Baiji-Haditha road in Anbar," 2/5/17
- "Found the body of a young man and woman in Kirkuk," 2/4/17

Face Iraq, "Pulled nearly 150 bodies from a drainage ditch in Mahaweel area North Babylon," 2/5/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, "Security deaths in Anbar car blast, IS kidnap 60 whistle-blowers," Iraqi News, 2/7/17

Prensa Latina, "Three Soldiers Killed in Attacks in Western Iraq," 2/5/17

Al Sumaria, "Found three decomposed bodies southeast Kirkuk," 2/7/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi governor warns of security setback in Salahudin,” 2/7/17

Mosul Campaign Day 221 May 25 2017

Battle damage in west Mosul’s Najar neighborhood (Baghdad Post) More pictures taken from Niqash reporter returni...