The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were fighting over the areas just north of the Old City district in west Mosul. The Federal Police claimed they held 80% of Tamuz 17 and Iqtisadin. The former was declared freed on May 13, and the latter on May 14. The Iraqis often call areas cleared before they are. At the same time, the Islamic State has constantly re-infiltrated places after they have left.
The Iraqi Air Force dropped flyers over west Mosul once more. The leaflets told people the end of the battle for the city was near, and that they should avoid using any cars or motorcycles out of fear that they would be targeted as suspected vehicle bombs.
The Hashd were still gaining more ground in western Ninewa. They took four more villages in Sinjar and had a fifth surrounding. The goal is to take Qayrawan, then go to Baaj, and finally reach the Syrian border. The move into Sinjar brought criticism from Kurdish President Massoud Barzani who claimed there was an agreement to keep the Hashd out of the district. Spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi said the Hashd wouldn’t respond to Barzani’s comments, and that they were cooperating with the Peshmerga. Prime Minister Haider Abadi added that Baghdad didn’t know about the Kurds’ concerns and a delegation would be sent to work things out. Sinjar was under Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) authority before 2014. It abandoned the area before the Islamic State arrived leading to the massacre of the Yazidis who lived there. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) entered from Syria and rescued the locals. That has made it all the harder for the KDP to re-establish control over the area. Now it is worried that the Hashd will enter the equation. Barzani can either have his Peshmerga take the Yazidi towns before the Hashd reach them or continue to complain to Baghdad in the hopes that it can convince the Hashd to pull back. This could quickly turn into a flashpoint.
In May, Al Monitor talked with former government adviser and Iraqi security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi who was very critical of Baghdad’s announcements about the war against the Islamic State. Hashimi told Al Monitor that the daily releases by the ISF were nothing but propaganda that always exaggerated its success like the number of IS fighters killed. The Joint Operations Command provided another example when it claimed that 16,667 insurgents were killed during the Mosul operations. That was more than two-four times higher than any estimate given for the number of fighters in Mosul before the operation started in October 2016. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy had 2,000-3,000 IS fighters, while Peter Bergan of CNN had the number at 4,500-7,500 when the campaign began. In January 2017, the ISF in Ninewa told the press there were 3,300 fighters left with the Defense Ministry saying there were originally around 6,000. In that month, the Ministry also claimed approximately 3,400 IS members had been killed so far. While these figures are all on Mosul and not Ninewa overall, there were not many IS fighters outside of the city. Ninewa is mostly wide open territory, which the militants did not defend because they would be exposed to air strikes. The Iraqis themselves were talking about roughly 3,000 IS fighters killed by January. Somehow that exploded to 16,000+ four months later. That was not the only problem.
The same Joint Operation Command release had 679 car bombs destroyed in the Mosul battle. At the start of the campaign it was said that the insurgents were launching dozens of vehicle bombs per day. By January both the U.S. and Iraqis said this was happening far less frequently. That didn’t stop the ISF from constantly reporting large numbers of car bombs being destroyed each day. From October 2016 to January 2017 the Iraqi forces claimed 949 car bombs were blown up. From February to April when those types of attacks went down, the Iraqis still reported 762 destroyed for a total of 1,711. The Joint Operations Command figure might be a more realistic one, but because the Iraqis exaggerate so much it’s impossible to tell. This is just another example of how the Iraqis have lost credibility when speaking on these issues.
Finally, the International Organization for Migration and other aid agencies are worried about the coming summer and how that will affect the displaced (IDPs). Special packages are being put together with fans, summer sheets, and cool boxes to hand out to the IDPs to deal with the heat. Some people in IDP camps are already complaining about the difficulties they are facing as the spring is ending and the next season is coming. IDPs are already facing enough problems, the scorching Iraqi summer will only add to them.
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- “Iraqi forces recapture 3 villages in anti-IS push near Mosul,” 5/16/17