The massive initiative to retake Mosul, launched in mid-October, marked the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion by the US.
Retaking Mosul is a key element in driving ISIS out of Iraq and Syria, and the fight isn’t going as planned. PB predicted from the onset that this would be a bloody and largely unsuccessful operation. It looks like we were right: 100,000 Iraqis vs 5,000 ISIS militants and they still can’t take the city.
“Fighting against ISIS is intensifying on several fronts in and around Mosul as we speak,” reported Fox News on Thursday.
The bad guys
The Islamic State is seriously outnumbered, but they have many advantages:
• Two years of preparation
• Highly trained and mobile troops
• Fanatical devotion
• Suicide bombers
• 1+ million civilians to use as meat shields
Mosul’s defenses include an extensive tunnel network (estimated at over 40 miles), trenches filled with oil, and numerous types of explosives. One of the most effective tactics is what ISIS calls “crashing waves” – small groups of snipers, suicide bombers, infiltrators, and mortar experts that use guerilla tactics to exhaust the Iraqi army.
The good guys
The Iraqi coalition is comprised of 54,000 Iraqi security forces, 40,000 Peshmerga fighters, 14,000 paramilitaries, and roughly 500 US troops. You would think such a massive force would have no trouble routing a mere 5,000 ISIS militants from their hideout in Mosul, but reports suggest the good guys just weren’t ready for urban warfare.
“In Mosul, we have to advance inside residential areas, comb streets, clear houses from terrorists, and deal with civilians. I’m afraid this job is too tough for us to handle,” said an Iraqi army colonel who asked to remain anonymous.
His Ninth Armored Division, which typically relies on tanks, is struggling to fight in the crowded urban setting. “We’re an armored brigade, and fighting without being able to use tanks and with soldiers unused to urban warfare is putting troops in a tough situation,” he told Reuters.
The Islamic State’s strict dress code, which it has enforced in Mosul over the past two years, makes it impossible to distinguish between friend and foe. “Our soldiers can’t recognize them until it’s too late, when the attacker either detonates his explosive vest or throws a grenade…it’s becoming a nightmare and it’s nerve-wracking for the soldiers.”
Hisham al-Hashemi, an adviser to the Iraqi government, reports that only two districts they had entered last week remain under Iraqi control. In some districts, the army has been driven out three or four times – usually at night – before reclaiming the town the next day.
The good guys have managed to breach Mosul only on the eastern side, said Hashemi. “We will win, without doubt. But it will be a costly victory.”
Meanwhile, Mosul’s innocent population of over 1 million is in serious danger. 40,000 people have been displaced in the past few weeks, and many civilians have been captured for use as human shields. Residents brave enough to pass information to the Iraqi army face crucifixion, torture, and other horrors.
A few surrounding districts have been cleared, however, and a priest of Mart Shoomy Church in Bahzani was excited to ring the church bells for the first time in two years. The Islamic State “wants to give a message to the world,” said the priest. “And that message is damage, their message is destruction, their message is death.”
Editor’s note: ISIS is entrenched because Obama mismanaged our presence in Iraq. Now the poorly trained and poorly led Iraqi coalition with a force of 100,000 is trying to dislodge an ISIS force of 5000. Since the attack was announced months in advancce, the ISIS leadership Iraq hoped to capture is long gone, and the fighter have prepared an assymetric response that involves dozens of suicide attacks and using the locals as human shields. Now the attack has stalled. What a disaster.