Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Into Mosul

From television news this morning, Iraqi special forces are entering Mosul from the east where they had been the closest:

Iraqi forces advanced to within a few hundred metres of Mosul on Monday, moving within striking distance of a city they lost to the Islamic State group two years before.

The spearhead is the Counter-Terrorism Service, which has led the advance in so many battles.

The Iraqi commander said of the advance to the gates of the city:

"They're fleeing, the jihadists are fleeing into Mosul," [Colonel] Obeidi said.

A recent Pentagon briefing confirmed this description of ISIL resistance on the approach to Mosul:

ISIL resistance so far has consisted of extensive use of vehicle- borne IEDs, indirect fire and snipers in an attempt to delay the advance as well as obscuration fire set to try and conceal ISIL positions and movements. None of this has stopped the Iraqi advance, and of course, the support for the Iraqi advance but from the coalition.

This matches my early impression of light resistance--notwithstanding media reports of fierce resistance--simply trying to slow down and inflict losses on the advancing Iraqis.

Perhaps ISIL will fight to the death inside Mosul. But they've shown little of that willingness over the last 11 months or so in Iraq.

But this is it for their caliphate in Iraq. If holding this city doesn't inspire the ISIL foot soldiers, what will?

Recall that ISIL is already reported to be abandoning the eastern portion of Mosul on the eastern side of the Tigris River. We shall see if this is to be closer to escape routes to Syria or just to take advantage of the defensive advantages of a river.

And when the eastern Iraqi forces reach the river, I guess we'll see if they try to force the river or rely on the southern Iraqi forces to push into western Mosul from that direction.

UPDATE: Good material from Stratfor and a Strategypage StrategyTalk discussion.

UPDATE: A nice summary of the Iraqi advance. Although I still wouldn't call ISIL resistance anything but light.

Perhaps it will be different if the defenders obey ISIL's leader's command to fight to the death for Mosul:

Addressing the estimated 5,000 ISIS members holed up in the city, Baghdadi says that "holding your ground in honor is a thousand times better than retreating in disgrace."

Although when you feel the need to tell your cannon fodder to fight to the death, perhaps your confidence in their willingness to fight to the death is lacking.