Monday, October 17, 2016

The Liberation of Mosul

"I announce today the start of the heroic operations to free you [civilian residents of Mosul] from the terror and the oppression of Daesh."
"We will meet soon on the ground of Mosul to celebrate liberation and your [remaining million Mosul residents'] salvation."
Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

"[The entire U.S.-led international coalition stands ready to support Iraq] in the difficult fight ahead [to retake Mosul]."
"This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIS a lasting defeat. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIS's hatred and brutality."
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter

"The preparations for the operation to liberate Mosul have been completed and have paved the way to begin the Mosul operation. It is my sincere hope that this operation will be successful and that we will collectively liberate the people of Mosul from the tyranny of the terrorists of the Islamic State."
"The time has come to begin the liberation of Mosul."
Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani
Peshmerga forces gather on the east of Mosul during preparations to attack Mosul, Iraq.
Peshmerga forces gather on the east of Mosul during preparations to attack Mosul, Iraq. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)
The opening salvos on Islamic State positions in Mosul, according to peshmerga commander Omer Huseyin represented the U.S. military firing American howitzers installed a full 20 kilometers from Mosul. The softening-up of ISIL in preparation for the full-scale invasion by combined Kurdish, Iraqi forces and Shiite militias were American and French warplanes mounting initial sorties. "Daesh (IS) terrorists started burning tires to block the view of the warplanes after international coalition forces struck the area", explained Huseyin. "Daesh terrorists also started burning the petroleum filled in their ditches, which they have dug around the city."

These tactics in response to the U.S. and French head-start made for a useful manoeuvre, visually obscuring the terrain, preparatory to defensive actions by ISIL once the ground invasion got underway. The combined invasion will not know what they will encounter on the ground, fighting in the streets and building to building. It is known that there are extensive tunnels underground to expedite the movement of ISIL fighters, particularly should they choose to do what the Iraqi military did in response to ISIL's initial entry to Mosul, and that is, flee for their lives.

The entire task force is reputed to have a strength of 30,000 to get on with recapturing the ancient city that once had two million residents, where a million now remain, having lived for over two years under the oppressive flag of Islamic State, as part of its caliphate. The invading forces will rely primarily on the Kurdish peshmerga though the Iraqis like to portray themselves as courageous, steadfast fighters. Some peshmerga commanders predict that fighting will be prolonged; at least three months to clear the city, with the expectation that ISIL plans to leave sleeper cells behind.

The three-thousand-year-old city represents the last stand in Iraq, for Islamic State. It had sent some of its wounded fighters across the border to its headquarters in Rakka, Syria, ahead of the confrontation. The caliphate no longer looks as geographically robust as it did a year ago, having lost quite a bit of its once-considerable territory. ISIL was driven out of Tikrit, Ramadi and Falluja. The loss of Mosul will represent a tremendous blow to its prestige, and likely impact deliteriously on its ability to continue attracting new conscripts from abroad.

A convoy of Iraqi military vehicles heads toward Qayyarah base in northern Iraq, ahead of an expected offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants, Oct. 15, 2016.
A convoy of Iraqi military vehicles heads toward Qayyarah base in northern Iraq, ahead of an expected offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants, Oct. 15, 2016
Reports have emerged that the large network of tunnels have been prepared representing egress from the city. ISIL prisoners in jail as punishment for low-level infractions have been released and are set to resume active duty. Their offences have been  as insignificant as smoking cigarettes, wearing the wrong clothing or growing the wrong style of beard. As for the tunnels, they're reputed to have been built with the capacity to accommodate motorbikes, and stretch from the city outskirts to the village of Hamdania, located nearby Mosul. Likely inspired by Hamas in Gaza.

American military officials estimate the presence of between 3,500 to 5,000 ISIL fighters, and if so they will be vastly outnumbered by the combined 30,000 planning to invade. Before the announcement of the offensive thousands of warning leaflets were dropped on the city, informing residents that the city is soon to be liberated. The expectation is that many of the residents remaining will attempt to evacuate the city to avoid the anticipated fighting.

The United Nations representative feels that this large-scale evacuation could represent "one of the largest man-made displacement crises of recent times", in keeping with the usual UN prognostications of refugee strain. To attempt to handle the expected crisis in displacement, camps are in the process of being set up to accommodate the needs of the refugees; at the very least basic necessities of life. Before they leave the city and are transported to the camps, residents will have to pass security checks by Iraqi and peshmerga forces screening to ensure that no ISIL fighters infiltrate the ranks of the civilians fleeing the fighting.
 And for the very last word on delicious irony, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Sunday that it was his fervent hope that the United States and its allies would be prepared to make an outstandingly sincere effort to ensure that they scrupulously avoid causing any civilian casualties, as Russia and Syria have so carefully committed to, to make certain that no one could accuse them of war crimes as a result of inadequate care in their bombing targets.

Mosul, located in northern Iraq, is the country's second largest city. (Google/CBC)
Now that the assault on Mosul has finally been initiated, the disagreements that cropped up between coalition allies on the configuration of the greater Mosul region of Nineveh and the manner of governance post-liberation will loom larger than ever, post- offensive, and ultimately guarantee that once the fighting between coalition force and Islamic State has concluded, the coalition allies may turn on one another, contesting territorial ambitions.

Earlier in the month Kurds claimed any territory its peshmerga succeeded in capturing would be destined to remain an integral part of Kurdistan. This declaration infuriated the Shiite Baghdad government which claims, to the contrary, that any liberated areas must be returned to the sovereignty of Iraq. And ever the prime disturber in any type of regional disagreements, Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again rebuffed Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi's demands that the Turkish president withdraw the 2,000 Turkish "military advisers" from the base they have established themselves in, 20 kilometers from Mosul.

There, the Turkish "advisers" have been busy training local Sunnis in a militia identified as Hasd al-Watani. Mr. Erdogan, ever the bad-natured opportunist, insists that Mosul must be controlled by Sunni Muslims [the majority population of Mosul has always been Sunni]. He, along with local Sunnis, have given dire warning to Shiite militias to keep their distance from Mosul. One great big happy Muslim concatenation of allies and think-alikes.

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