Monday, February 27, 2017

At the End of the Beginning

Iraqi forces don't seem to have reached whatever main line of resistance that ISIL has established in western Mosul. Iraqi forces are pushing forward and are planning to seize the southern bridge across the Tigris River inside Mosul to allow the Iraqis to shift forces between the two sides more easily.

Iraqi forces are pushing forward:

Iraqi troops have already captured the southern and western accesses to western Mosul, dislodging the militants from the airport, a military base, a power station and one residential district, al-Maamoun, according to military statements.

Commanders say they will soon complete the recapture of two others residential district, al-Tayyaran and Hawi al-Josaq.

That the Iraqis want to capture the southern bridge in Mosul is interesting:

The bridge is the southernmost of five bridges spanning the Tigris. All were damaged in strikes by the U.S.-led air coalition, and later by Islamic State fighters trying to seal off the western bank still under their control.

"The bridge is very important," Colonel Falah al-Wabdan of the Interior Ministry's Rapid Response unit, one of the two main forces spearheading the campaign in western Mosul, told Reuters. "The bridge is about 400 metres away. By the end of the day you will hear that our forces have arrived (there)."

Army engineers plan to rehabilitate the bridge to allow troops to bring in reinforcements and supplies directly from the eastern side, he said.

These are the bridges:

The map is not up to date on control. I just grabbed an older map to show the bridges.

Grabbing a bridge from the overland assault makes far more sense than launching a river assault crossing against a prepared enemy.

Iraqi engineers are certainly capable of repairing the bridge once they control both banks.

In related news, the American commander for the fight against ISIL entered Syria to get a feel for the situation on the ground:

The top US military commander for the Middle East made a secret trip to northern Syria on Friday to meet a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group, officials said.

General Joseph Votel, who heads US Central Command (Centcom), met with leaders from the Syrian Democratic Forces.

I assume this was part of the order to provide a faster option to defeat ISIL.

Which is good. My primary complaint with President Obama's strategy was the pace. It took us nearly as long to help Iraq begin to return to Mosul as it took for us to land in France on D-Day after the Pearl Harbor attack. I never had any problem with making Iraq the priority front.

My secondary complaint was that the objective for the secondary front, Syria, didn't seem to have the end game of defeating Assad in addition to crushing ISIL there.

But we have a way to go in Iraq. Mosul needs to be liberated. And there is other ISIL-held territory in Iraq, too, don't forget.

Plus ISIL will continue to fight as terrorists without their caliphate.  They will be weaker but will still want to kill.

And of course the next war to establish rule of law will need to be fought in Iraq. I hope that is part of the advice given to Trump.