Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Southwest Hounds Are Unleashed

The Iraqi offensive to take western Mosul has kicked off:

Plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky early Sunday morning as U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul and militarized Iraqi police fired artillery toward the city. Heavily armed police units were getting ready to move north with their armored vehicles from a base just southwest of the city. ...

Iraqi special operations forces, regular army and federal police units are taking part in the offensive along with government-approved paramilitary forces, mainly consisting of Shiite militias, which are operating on the city's outskirts.

I guess I saw the right signs of the impending assault.

As I expected the activity is to the south and southwest. Although I kept expecting the attack to kick off while ISIL was fixed by the assault on eastern Mosul. That never happened and the phases were sequential rather than concurrent.

Will there also be an air assault into a stadium inside western Mosul to use it as an airhead? That speculation was a lot of that post.

Will there be a complementary assault across the Tigris River from eastern Mosul? Or was that threat a feint all along?

UPDATE: I enjoyed this:

The forces will not be able to attack across the river because all five bridges connecting the eastern and western parts of the city are heavily damaged, so the offensive is expected to come from the south and west.

For weeks now, the stories have been that the attack on western Mosul would be a river assault across the Tigris.

Which made no sense to me when you considered the large force and logistics and fire support base south of Mosul on the west side of the river. Why assault a river when you can avoid it?

As a secondary threat, sure. But the primary axis of advance? Why?

But now the news says the attack "is expected" to come from the south and west.

I assume the military sources were spreading a little disinformation for the benefit of ISIL over the last weeks with those river assault stories.

I wonder if ISIL bought it?

UPDATE: More. Two things.

One, it confirms that Counter-Terrorism Service deployed from the east to the west.

And two, will the fight for western Mosul really be harder than the battle for the part east of the Tigris River?

If the ISIL defenders used up their best people and weapons in the failed effort to hold off--or at least decisively bleed--the Iraqi offensive on the east bank, why will the effort on the western side of the Tigris be harder?

UPDATE: So American officials estimate that 2,000 ISIL defenders remain in western Mosul.

I'm not sure how the conclusion that this phase of the campaign will be tougher than the first phase to capture eastern Mosul was reached.