Saturday, November 05, 2016

Resistance Stiffens

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces have finally reached ISIL's main line of resistance in Mosul. At least the outer crust of ISIL forces are fighting hard.

The first Iraqi attacks are into eastern Mosul:

The special forces launched a two-pronged assault deeper into Mosul's urban center on Friday, unleashing the most intense street battles against IS militants since the offensive to retake the city began nearly three weeks ago. At least seven special forces troops have been killed in the fighting.

More than 3,000 Iraqi troops took part in the assault under heavy U.S.-led coalition air support, but the pace of the fight also slowed as Iraqi forces moved from fighting in more rural areas with few civilians to the tight, narrow streets of Mosul proper. At least seven suicide attackers in explosives-laden vehicles attacked troops on Friday, five of whom were killed before nearing their targets.

Iraqi troops from the south are still short of the city limits, although they have the farthest to advance to get to the city.

News yesterday said that ISIL resistance had stiffened:

"We weren't expecting such resistance. They had blocked all the roads," said one [Counter-Terrorism Service] officer, as top brass considered whether or not to attempt a fresh foray.

There had been reports that ISIL forces were edging out of eastern Mosul to the west side of the Tigris River. Did the less motivated ISIL forces make that trip west and leave the true believers to face the Iraqi army?

Or are these defenders representative of the whole force?

If the latter is true, this will be bloody and take longer. If the former is true, once the outer crust of true believers are killed the rest will make a run for Raqqa in Syria.

As of a couple days ago according to the spokesman for our operation in Iraq, ISIL (or "Daesh," as the insulting term that is sometimes used) was neither running nor reinforcing:

Daesh has very limited freedom of movement. They don't have the ability to move in large columns. I don't think that I would characterize them as having freedom of movement to the west at all. So, we're -- we're not seeing significant numbers of Daesh leaving the city or going in for that matter. I've been asked that before. So, we'll have to just let that play out.

The Iraqis will need their tanks and bulldozers--backed by artillery and air power--to deal with the obstacles to block roads inside Mosul that ISIL has created.

In a perfect world, I'd want the main attack to come from the southeastwest (oops) to cut off ISIL forces in Mosul while they are engaged with the Iraqi CTS forces entering the city from the east.

Not only would that provide for a battle of annihilation for ISIL troops defending Mosul by cutting off their retreat route to Syria, but Coalition airpower will be able to interdict ISIL forces within Mosul trying to move across the Tigris River that splits the city, complicating ISIL ability to react to Iraqi attacks.

But the Iraqis have tended to leave an open route for retreat to avoid friendly casualties while taking populated areas.

So we shall see if the both the Iraqi forces and ISIL troops are prepared to fight to the death.

[I guess I'm going with CTS rather than CTF since reporters seem to have settled on that term.]

UPDATE: While I don't doubt that we are working on isolating the ISIL capital of Raqqa in Syria, I suspect that the talk about this is designed more to convince ISIL leadership to strip troops from the lost cause of defending Mosul rather than trying to die in place there and increase the body count for Iraqi troops and civilians in the process.

Meanwhile, as ISIL forces are perhaps fixed on their eastern front fighting that axis of advance into Mosul, Iraqi forces from the southern advance have taken enough territory to enter Mosul as the next step:

Security forces have also advanced from the south, entering the last town before Mosul on Saturday and reaching within 4 km (2.5 miles) of Mosul airport on the city's southwest edge, a senior commander said.

Do the ISIL defenders have reserves? Are they committed to the eastern front? Could they easily disengage from the CTS and 9th armored division offensive there? Do we have the ability to hit ISIL forces on the move within the urban Mosul environment as they try to shift to the south?

UPDATE: Oh, here's a blast from the TDR past the last time jihadis were beaten in Mosul.