Saturday, March 04, 2017

Still a Last Stand?

It's a mixed message out of Mosul of ISIL fighting and running away.

ISIL forces under cover of night, rain, wind, and human shields launched a counter-attack:

Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city's southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning, although a Reuters correspondent saw an air strike and rebel mortar fire.

A senior Iraqi officer said Islamic State staged its attack on units from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) when the storm and strong winds hampered air surveillance and on-the-ground visibility.

He said some militant fighters hid among displaced families to get close to the U.S.-trained troops.

There is no mention of the counter-attack gaining back any ground.

An ISIL leader has also admitted defeat in Iraq:

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued a statement acknowledging the group’s defeat in Iraq, as he urged supporters to either hide or flee, Iraqi television network, Alsumaria, quoted local sources as saying.

If true, that is significant.

Even if not true, it might encourage more of this:

Iraqi Officers Find Islamic State Members Hidden Among Refugees Fleeing Mosul[.]

Iraqi forces are sifting refugees fleeing Mosul for ISIL fighters trying to escape.

I know that a lot of reporting has said the battle for western Mosul would be harder and last longer than the battle for eastern Mosul, but I didn't see the evidence for it.

I continue to see evidence for an easier or hard battle.

UPDATE: For what it is worth, we say that the battle is on schedule:

Iraqi security forces are progressing as planned in their battle to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group but the fighting will get tougher as they approach the city center, a US general said Saturday.

So car bombs will be harder to use in narrow streets, too. Although I've noted that bomb houses could be used instead. Or suicide bombers on motorcycles or on foot.

So the fight could get tougher as the fight reaches the city center. Assuming there are many defenders left by the time they are squeezed that tight.

UPDATE: Iraqi forces are nearing the provincial government complex:

The complex, which houses the Nineveh Provincial Council and the Nineveh Governorate buildings, should be taken Monday, Lt. Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi told Reuters.

I'm guessing this old map indicating the provincial headquarters shows the area:

That's pretty good progress if they take it as predicted.

Pretty soon the Iraqis will have another damaged bridge under control.

UPDATE: Yes, the Iraqis now have the western end of the second bridge from the south:

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Monday captured Mosul's al-Hurriya bridge, which leads to the Islamic State-held old city center from the south, a military media officer told Reuters.

And yes, ISIL forces are using bomb houses:

The jihadists are using snipers, mortars and bombs planted in streets and houses, [Iraqi lieutenant colonel] Mohammedawi said.

Perhaps it is just me, but the advance so far seems to be going pretty smoothly.