Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Battle for Mosul Rages

ISIL forces do seem to have rediscovered the will to fight when the battle reached Mosul.

Early reports of ISIL pulling out of Mosul east of the Tigris River have proven to be false or at least misleading as fighting rages there:

Iraqi forces too had regrouped after meeting stronger than expected resistance from IS fighters on the east bank of the Tigris River which runs through Mosul after thrusting into the built-up area last week.

The jihadists had been expected to pull back to the west bank, a stronghold of Sunni Arab insurgency even before IS swept through the minority community's heartland north and west of Baghdad in mid-2014.

Part of the slowness comes from having to clear populated areas in the city and attempt to sift out enemies.

And Iraqi armored units, which had been able to stand off from villages to provide fire support from a distance during the advance to Mosul,  now find themselves in a knife fight in city streets in Mosul.

The Iraqi armor, supporting infantry, and firepower will have to be more tightly integrated to advance with acceptable casualties (to unit integrity, of course, and not in a human sense). Troops will learn as they go.

Resistance by ISIL has definitely stiffened once the fight reached Mosul.

I'm still not sure whether this ISIL resistance is truly heavy and effective rather than understandably being seen as horrific at the tactical level by those who are fighting.

And there is the additional complication that the Iraqi forces are not really good despite the two years of training the Coalition has provided. And urban combat is different even for well trained units. Combat will train the survivors.

We shall see when Iraqi forces reach the southern portions of Mosul if ISIL has enough truly committed fighters to resist as fiercely or whether the ones who love death the most are committed to the eastern front--where they might be pinned when the southern front develops.

Oh, and that story indicates that ISIL may be ready to use chemical weapons in Mosul again and in larger quantities.

The fight is tough. The enemy wants to win, after all. But Iraqi forces are adequate, have the numbers, and have the supplies and precision firepower to win. Iraqi troops managed to take Khorramshahr in 1980 despite equally fanatical Iranian opposition--who had better tanks than the Iraqi attackers--and with less effective Iraqi support.

Speaking of Saddam, ISIL is deploying children in Mosul to give the impression of more fighters. Called the "Cubs of the Caliphate," these children likely show the ties to Saddam's boys who migrating to the jihad to fight for a Sunni-ruled Iraq. Back in the day, Saddam's Cubs was a youth group to indoctrinate children to support Saddam Hussein.

UPDATE: Fighting continues to be fierce on the ISIL eastern front on the eastern bank of the Tigris.

I suspect that the plan must be for the southern front to sweep in fast and hard into the western part of Mosul while the jihadis are fixed looking east.

With a large Iraqi force hitting ISIL from the flank and rear, even committed jihadis will be shaken and prone to running--or more vulnerable to being killed while they move with haste.