Ravages of the fighting in northwest Mosul (Reuters)
More progress was made in west Mosul. The Ureibi and Rifai neighborhoods were freed by the Golden Division, Najar was attacked, and there was still fighting in the Tamuz 17 area. The Golden Division was reportedly in Najar by May 2, but may not have been near it, while Tamuz 17 was declared liberated on May 13. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) often get ahead of themselves in their announcements claiming that places are cleared when they are not. At the same time, the Islamic State has often re-infiltrated areas after they withdraw. The territory under IS control is rapidly shrinking, and there are only a few neighborhoods left until all of Mosul is freed.
The Hashd announced more advances, while running into opposition from the Kurds in their new west Mosul operation. Four villages south of Qayrawan were taken, and a fifth was under attack. Yesterday, two Yazidi villages were assaulted, which brought criticism from Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. The president claimed that there was an agreement between Irbil and Baghdad to keep the Hashd out of Yazidi areas of Sinjar. The Peshmerga commander in Sinjar told the press that the Hashd had changed their battle plan and entered the two towns. A member of the Badr Brigade claimed that everything was in cooperation with the Peshmerga. The Hashd also said that there were Yazidis in a Brigade that took on the Sinjar villages. President Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is attempting to regain control of the Sinjar district after it was retaken from the Islamic State. They are having decided problems with that due to the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who rescued the locals after the KDP abandoned them in 2014 in the face of the advance of the Islamic State. Having the Hashd enter Sinjar only further complicates the KDP’s plans, and was why it was so forceful in criticizing their arrival. There is nothing the Kurds can do about the situation right now. They will have to bring in the central government to make a political deal to reverse the course of the Hashd if they are so concerned.
U.S. envoy to the anti-IS Coalition Brett McGurk was in Ninewa during the day. He went to a water treatment plant that had just re-opened for Ninewa. He said the Coalition was funding hundreds of similar projects across the province. The problem is the Trump administration has said it is not interested in rebuilding Iraq. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remarked in March that the U.S. would not finance much reconstruction in Iraq or Syria. As of March 31, 2017, the Pentagon has spent $12.5 billion on fighting the Islamic State versus just $1.2 billion for humanitarian aid. Only $350 million of the latter has gone to Ninewa. In comparison, the deputy head of the Ninewa council estimated that Mosul alone might need up to $100 billion to rebuild. The Iraqi government is hoping that the Coalition and the United Nations will come up with these funds because it is running a budget deficit with low oil prices. The White House is obviously opposed to that idea. The U.N. has been chronically underfunded in Iraq for years now, and won’t be able to finance any major projects either. That could leave much of the battle damage in Ninewa unrepaired for years, which could tarnish the military victory.
The fighting in northwest Mosul is causing a huge number of people to leave their homes. In just four days over 40,000 came out of the city. They were sent to Hamam al-Alil to be screened and registered. Many want to move on to east Mosul, so they can be close to their homes. That was very difficult over the last few weeks due to the flooding of the Tigris River, but on May 12 the Nimrod bridge south of Mosul re-opened. That allowed the government to resume bus service to Mosul. From May 13-14, 5,300 left camps to move to the city. The ebb and flow of people in and out of Mosul is directly related to the intensity of the fighting. With heavy combat going on more people are fleeing, but that will quickly reverse once the last sections of the city are taken. It will still take plenty of time for the tens of thousands of displaced (IDPs) to return, and the government and aid agencies will struggle to meet their needs when they do. At the same time, most IDPs want to make their way back to their homes.
Kuwait continued to provide aid to the people of Ninewa affected by the fighting. It was financing a new ward in the Irbil Emergency Hospital that treats patients from Mosul. It will have 36 beds when it is completed. Kuwait is one of the only nations on the ground working with the Iraqi government and non-governmental organizations to provide food and assistance inside and outside of Mosul.
Finally, the Iraqi government is slowly restoring services to Mosul. The Trade Ministry is re-establishing the food ration system. Several thousand residents received their first packages of goods, and the ministry was in talks with the security forces to secure more trucks to deliver rations to the city and displaced camps in Kurdistan. Food is one of the top needs of Mosul as the city was cut off from supplies for months, and there is increasing malnutrition especially in areas under IS control and along the frontlines. Many Iraqis in general rely upon the food ration system anyway, but given the impact of the battle that is especially true now in Ninewa.
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