Monday, January 02, 2017

Shaping the Battlefield Perception?

At some point I will have to succumb to the reporting that has said and still implies the the Iraqi offensive from the east to take Mosul will conduct a river assault across the Tigris River to continue into western Mosul. I'm not at that point yet.

An American general speaks about the time it will take to liberate Mosul from ISIL control and how the operation will unfold:

Speaking to The Associated Press in an interview, Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe said he agrees with the forecast given by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that it would take another three months to liberate Mosul, the last Iraqi urban center still in the hands of the extremist group. ...

Uribe said Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, would face a different fight when they cross to the west bank of the Tigris River, saying it will mostly be a "dismounted" battle fought in part on narrow streets, some of which were not wide enough for a vehicle to pass.

"It will be a different fight and they will adjust as they go from the east to the west. They are already planning these adjustments," he said.

One, I imagine President Obama would be happier if the decisive battle that will signal ISIL's defeat in Iraq--as a caliphate but not as a terror group, of course--is nearly or completely finished by the time he leaves office.

I don't think our military would push the Iraqis to meet that deadline at the expense of higher friendly and civilian casualties, but I think that factor exists.

And two, what's with the part of about Iraqi forces, "when they cross to the west bank" of the river dividing the city?

That sure seems to imply that Iraqi forces will press from the east, hit the river barrier, and then launch an opposed river crossing operation to head into western Mosul.

I do not understand that apparent plan when there are a lot of Iraqi forces south of the western side of Mosul with plenty of American support with them, including artillery and helicopter assets.

Of course, as I've been droning on about, I fully expect the main Iraqi effort to kick off from the southwest, possibly with an air assault into a stadium for use as an airhead; with the eastern Iraqi assault since October having served to attrite the ISIL forces, draw in the best ISIL weapons and reserves, and now to pin the ISIL forces on the east bank with blown bridges behind them.

A higher ranking American general notes that resistance in eastern Mosul is of a lower quality now, and that ISIL has to use boats to cross the Tigris River. And does this telegraph a new phase to take western Mosul?

Along with Iraq's air force, the coalition is striking some militant positions in the west but for now, Martin said, "our focus principally is on the east side".

As I've also droned on about, the objective of Mosul has long been obvious. So there was going to be no strategic surprise. Tactical surprise can come from attacking sooner or from an unexpected direction.

Sooner did not happen in the long-telegraphed offensive. So all that is left is to hit ISIL from an unexpected direction. An assault from the southwest by Iraqi forces that have been very very quiet as they edged up to the city, combined with an air assault into that stadium--which the Iraqis have experience doing in this war, I'll add--would strike from an unexpected direction after the actions and talk that we have seen so far.

I'll have to see Iraqis crossing in small boats and helicopters with engineers repairing bridges and throwing across new assault bridges before I believe BG Uribe's implication is correct.

I just wouldn't plan it this way--not the least because this is so darned slow to unfold and time is a valuable resource for an enemy that might use it in novel ways to snatch victory from the jaws of looming defeat--and I won't buy this explanation until I see it.

UPDATE: On Thursday I read that the Iraqis think that reaching the Tigris River in eastern Mosul can be achieved within days.

I guess we'll soon see if the Iraqis try to bounce the river and press into western Mosul while the forces in the south watch the action unfold.