Battle for Mosul: how is the attack on the Iraqi capital of ISIS

Four on one

In the night of Monday, October 17, the Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi made a television appeal, in which he announced the start of operations to liberate Mosul (the second largest city in the country) took from him two years ago Islamists. According to him, the occupation of the city is “only a matter of time,” so he urges remaining in Mosul civilians to assist the government troops.

The attack on Mosul is predominantly South and East sides participate in operation government forces, troops of the Iraqi Kurdistan region (Peshmerga) as well as Sunni and Shiite militia. As reports the Chinese Agency “Xinhua” with reference to sources among the Iraqi security forces for a Monday morning, only the Kurdish forces managed to liberate nine towns to the East of Mosul.

To the North and East of Mosul fighting are the forces of “Peshmerga”, in the South, Iraqi troops of the special operations forces. The total strength of the Islamists opposing forces — about 40 thousand people, reported in late September, the TASS reported, citing Turkish Haber Turk, including the number of Iraqi regular units ranging from 20 thousand to 25 thousand.

Also against holding Mosul “Islamic state” (ISIS banned in Russia as a terrorist organization) made about 600 soldiers of the Assyrian Christian militia groups “defense Forces of Nineveh”. In the ground operation used armored vehicles and tanks. Air support the Iraqi army and the Kurds provide the aircraft of the US-led coalition.

Confront the advancing forces of about 15 thousand fighters of ISIS. Most of them — about 8 thousand defend the city itself. At least another 5 thousand fighters spread out through the suburbs of Mosul. A Islamists have a large number of small arms and armored vehicles, which the militants seized from the Iraqi army.

Northern Outpost

To capture by the Islamists in Mosul lived at least 1.5 million people. For today in the city, according to estimates by The Washington Post, is still more than 1 million civilians. ISIS holds the town and its environs for more than two years. In early June 2014, the Islamists for several days besieged and captured the metropolis forces 1.3 thousand fighters. The next day, June 11, the city was left almost half a million of its inhabitants.

Over the next four days, the Islamists freely moved to 300 km downstream of the Tigris river, but to capture “hurriedly” Baghdad failed. In fact, it was the capture of Mosul and expanded following this, a massive offensive in Iraq and Syria has led in September 2014 to the emergence of the phenomenon of ISIS as a major threat to international security. Prior to that ISIS was considered the only one of the branches (also banned in Russia), “al-Qaeda” in the middle East, but after the capture of Mosul, on 29 June 2014, ISIS announced the establishment of a Caliphate on the captured territories.

The largest of its cities, Mosul became not only the capital for the Iraqi half of the LIH, but also the most important economic and infrastructural base of the group. In March, 2015 experts of the international Group on struggle against money-laundering (FATF) estimated annual income is $1 billion, with a significant part of the operation in the Mosul: for example, the Islamists put their people at the head of the banks of the metropolis, which established a Commission of 5% on the withdrawal of deposits by citizens (not to mention the simple looting of the Bank of cells). During the second half of 2014, the Islamists seized control of about $500 million of deposits in the banks of Mosul and neighboring towns. Attempts to liberate Mosul the Iraqi forces have made several times in 2015 and 2016. In fact, the attack on Mosul began in March 2016, but in the summer the Iraqi generals began preparing for operation directly at the liberation of the city.

“The capture of Mosul would seriously reduce the presence of ISIS in Iraq, it may be a turning point in the anti-terrorist campaign”, — believes Director of the Center for analysis of middle East conflicts of the Institute of USA and Canada Alexander Shumilin. According to him, this is the first operation of this kind: “there was a coordinated effort of the Iraqi army, Kurdish troops and the coalition under US leadership”.

“The operation is unique, long prepared by all parties, — agrees the Director of the center “Russia-East-West” Vladimir Sotnikov. — To give accurate predictions about the results of the operation before, but a turning point may be the moment when Iraqi troops come to the city and start street fighting. If the Islamists will once again use his usual tactic of retreat to preserve personnel, the chances of the Iraqis to succeed in the urban wars will increase.” For example, a similar tactic, the militants have demonstrated two months ago in the course of the operation of the Turkish troops, “Shield of the Euphrates”. According to Sotnikova, the successful liberation of Mosul will demonstrate the capability and readiness of the Iraqi army to solve major problems in the war against ISIS. The Islamist groups in the city, by contrast, is considerably weakened, the expert said.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees

Foreign policy and public organizations met the news of the beginning of the assault on Mosul with cautious optimism. For example, the foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir said, there is no doubt that the defeat of the Islamists in this fight, although stressed his concern about the participation in the assault on Shiite militias, which can “enter into the city and arrange a bloodbath”.

It is noteworthy that after these words, al-Jubeir admitted the possibility of increasing the supply of weapons to Syrian opposition groups in besieged Aleppo. There is now the situation is developing similar to the situation in Mosul: the Syrian army has surrounded rebel groups in the Eastern part of the second largest Syrian city, which causes massive air strikes. And for 8 thousand rebels in the besieged city has 275 thousand civilians, international observers predict ambulance a humanitarian catastrophe.

Given that Mosul is now four times more civilians, the consequences of the storm could be even more ambitious. On Monday, the Office of the UN high Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has warned that only during the storming of the city can leave the 100 thousand refugees heading towards Turkey and Syria. Rapidly deployable camps receiving UNHCR urgently needs additional $61 million

Turkey is ready if necessary to take “even hundreds of thousands” of refugees from Mosul, while Turkey thinks that “correct” the conduct of the Iraq military operation will prevent such a massive flow of immigrants. On Monday said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus. At the same time, Turkish troops on the Iraqi base in the town of BA’shiqah to the North of Mosul, in the vicinity of the ongoing operations. Baghdad at the weekend reiterated that Ankara permit the deployment of troops did not receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan retorted that Iraq will not be able to cope with the assault on Mosul alone, and Turkey needs the protection of the southern borders from attacks on its territory.

For his part, Russian leader Vladimir Putin warned the United States and France (which provide support of actions of the Iraqis from the air), urging them to act very carefully so as to minimize the number of casualties among civilians. Putin also compared the siege of the city with the battle for Aleppo: “of course, We can now specify our partners to Mosul and to say that there is too much civilian population, hundreds of thousands of people, and the use of aircraft and artillery is very dangerous from the point of view of potential victims.”

In late September, the Pentagon announced the intention to soon send to Iraq, 600 more military experts directly for the preparation of the operation to take Mosul. The number of us troops in the country thereby rose to 5.2 thousand “After the Mosul major tasks will be. That’s all it is the last important stronghold of the ISIS in Iraq,” — said the press Secretary of the Ministry of defence of the USA Jeff Davis. According to estimates Steven Royal, a middle East expert consulting Agency Control Risks, the full liberation of Mosul could take about two months.

For the first day of operation, according to the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish forces liberated from Islamists about 200 square kilometers of territory on the approach to Mosul. Barzani also confirmed that his troops are not going to get into the Mosul.