Monday, December 26, 2016

The Mosul Pause to End

Iraqi forces fighting to take Mosul have paused to refit. The offensive is to begin again within days. But what direction will the new main effort come from?

It has been quiet in Mosul, with Iraqi forces led by the Counter-Terrorism Service on the line in eastern Mosul where ISIL has been pushed part way to the Tigris River to their rear. These CTS forces have been reported as refitting as well as receiving reinforcements from para-military police units.

ISIL does not seem to be doing much during this pause. I certainly haven't seen news of anything significant. Which is good, because it likely means that ISIL is ground down and grateful to have a period not under attack rather than seeing an Iraqi pause as an opportunity to counter-attack.

Okay, as I write that I see that ISIL lost a bunch yesterday in efforts to attack Iraqi forces on the east bank of the Tigris River.

The only big news--until yesterday's events--was that American advisors are now integrated into more Iraqi units where they can provide advice and better fire support.

But now it seems that with refits, reinforcements in the east, and new embeds, the offensive will resume:

"Right now we're staging really for the next phase of the attack as we start the penetration into the interior of east Mosul," Lieutenant Colonel Stuart James, commander of a combat arms battalion assisting Iraqi security forces on the southeastern front, said in a Reuters interview late on Sunday.

"So right now, positioning forces and positioning men and equipment into the interior of east Mosul... it's going to happen in the next several days."

No doubt that the push into eastern Mosul will resume.

The question is whether this is the main effort for what could be the final push; or whether it has been weakening ISIL's best forces by drawing them into a potential kill sack across the river and distracting ISIL away (and yesterday's losses back that) from a main effort into western Mosul from the southwest, which could include an air assault into Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium fairly close to the last bridge over the Tigris River, which divides Mosul, still functioning.

While the article has a picture of an American artillery piece located east of Mosul, I still suspect that most of our supporting arms are south of Mosul where we had established with great fanfare many months ago a major logistics hub complete with American artillery units that we haven't heard from since then.

The forces in eastern Mosul would be more designed to pin the ISIL forces on the east bank in place while the big effort in the west kicks off, and to be ready to pursue them and kill them (with embedded Americans now) if the ISIL forces try to break contact and escape across the river to run or join the battle on the west bank of the river.

And what of this story about the British planning in the spring to focus their air effort on Raqqa in Syria? Does this news deflect from a near-term effort over Mosul to support Iraqi troops that Britain has trained?

Forgive me. I'm looking for dots to connect to reinforce a picture of what I'd do if Lord of the Offensive. Which I'm not, obviously.

We shall see. I've been waiting for this new phase for a while now. I freely admit it is based on few details based on what I'd do if I was Lord of the Offensive, including interpreting news allowed out in light of a deception operation to support an assault from the southwest.

UPDATE: On Wednesday I read that the last bridge over the Tigris River in Mosul has had the central part dropped

So ISIL forces that have rushed to the main front to face the Counter-Terrorism Service offensive can neither be reinforced nor sent back to the west bank in any condition to rapidly join the fight should the Iraqis strike western Mosul from the southwest.

Does this invalidate the purpose of an air assault into the Al-Idara Al-Mahalia Stadium in western Mosul? I speculated that this would be part of an operation to seize western Mosul by isolating the ISIL forces in eastern Mosul.

I do wonder how quickly Iraqi engineers could span the gaps in the bridges and put them back in service. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi engineers were quite competent.