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The coming depression blog | April 20, 2019

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Iraq forces close in on IS strong-hold Mosul

Iraq forces close in on IS strong-hold Mosul

Iraq forces close in on IS strong-hold Mosul

A massive offensive by Iraqi forces to take over Mosul from the ISIS has intensified. The offensive started two weeks ago.

Tens of thousands of security personnel are involved in Iraq’s biggest military operation in years and are moving in on three main fronts – north, east and south.

The Joint Operations Command coordinating Iraq’s war on IS said CTS and army forces launched a drive “to advance toward the left bank of the city of Mosul from three axes.”

Mosul is split down the middle by the Tigris River and Iraqis refer to the eastern half of the city as the left bank and the western side as the right bank.

According to the army taking just two more targets will bring them close to the city which is the ISIS’s stronghold .

Dozens of villages and several towns have already been captured from IS with many operations still ongoing.

Troops have now entered Karama, the first district inside Mosul, a senior officer said. Speaking outside the recently taken town of Bartella, the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) officer said that the target is to capture Bazwaya and Gogjali.

Muntadhar al Shimmari told reporters: “If we manage that, we’ll only be a few hundred metres from Mosul.”

The operation in Bazwaya means Iraq’s special forces, the Golden Division, now have Mosul in their sights. The gates of the city are less than a kilometre away. But it will still take time before they can enter properly and hold ground.

Many of the areas they have moved through have still not been made safe and the buildings and roads are littered with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Once near Mosul, Iraqi forces plan to besiege the city while opening up safe corridors for the million-plus civilians to leave the city before the last major attack.

Once the Iraqi forces have taken the city, fierce street battles are expected to break out as they take on die hard jihadists.

Another front was opened at the weekend by paramilitary forces dominated by Iran-backed Shia militia groups.

Although they are not planning to reach Mosul, they are targeting the town of Tal Afar to the west with the aim of retaking it and cutting off supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian border.

Iraqi special forces’ are using Humvees as an advancing column of armour to roll into action and engage the enemy, inching forward in a blaze of gunfire. Islamic State militants are retaliating to target the advancing column of armour.

The Iraqi Army is not issuing figures for the injured and dead in this operation but the forces involved are all paying a heavy price in blood.

For the Mosul Division the battle is personal. Colonel Muntather was stationed in the city when it was attacked in 2014. Thirteen of his men were killed and he only just managed to escape with his life.

The attack by IS with only 1,500 men against the 30,000 of the Iraqi Army sealed the extremist movements’ reputation as a fearsome fighting force.

“We have no fear,” he says. “We were very sad for the people that we lost. Now, God willing, we will take revenge on IS for the day they killed our friends and those who fought with us.

“And every time we kill IS we feel that blood of those who died was not in vain.”

There is no doubt in the troops’ minds that Mosul will fall and the Iraqi Army will avenge their honour – but taking the city will be the easy part.

Defeating the extremists, who will resort to more conventional terrorist tactics with every inch of territory they lose, will be much harder.




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