For our readers this won’t come as a shock, but the GOI has announced that the Mosul operation will be delayed for several more months – possibly til this fall but more like next year. Why? The reasons for the delay are the very same things we’ve laid out in the Iraq articles we’ve posted over the past two months with our most recent piece being “ISIS Shaping Operations Against IA Blunts Mosul OP Before it Starts.” The bottom-line is the GOI and the Obama administration were banking on a pie in the sky assessment of how things “should be” versus what the conditions on the ground are really like. In other words, this is what happens when academics and activists with little or no real world experience run the foreign policy and national defense of the country. Here’s a recap:
– The Iraqi Army (IA) is maxed out on manpower and is having trouble fielding a suitable assault force without pulling troops from other critical areas, such as the defense of Baghdad. As the IA began moving units north and the curfew lifted, Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells began hitting Baghdad with a sustained rate of attacks that show no signs of letting up. The US government is training what is supposed to be the “backbone” of this assault force, but its unrealistic to think a bunch of green recruits who had a few weeks of training (and no real combat experience) will be successful against seasoned-IS fighters.
ISF recruits training in Dubardan, Iraq
Source: Washington Post
– IS – already fully aware of the very public plans to retake Mosul – had launched their own two-pronged counter-offensive in Anbar targeting al-Asad Airbase and in Northern Iraq targeting Irbil, Kirkuk and Bayji with plans to defend Tikrit. As we stated in our previous articles, IS’ intent was to force the IA to reallocate forces dedicated to the Mosul operation to ensuring al-Asad Airbase doesn’t fall and that Tikrit is taken out of the equation.
Although graphic, its a glimpse into how well the IA has fared thus far in Anbar Province
Source: al-Battar Media Foundation
– The increased pressure being placed on Irbil and Kirkuk has forced the KRG Peshmerga into making the decision to address the areas south of Kirkuk and the Zaab Triangle that reaches into Ninevah Province. Failure to clear IS from those areas means the LOCs from the main KRG support hubs of Kirkuk and Irbil will become vulnerable to attacks targeting logistical convoys.
Peshmerga in the outskirts of Mosul
– IRGC-Qods Force commander GEN Suleimani has declared that securing the LOC from Baghdad to Mosul should be the priority before any operation to retake Mosul is launched. As such, he has formulated a plan involving a joint-Qods Force/Shia militia/Peshmerga operation with some IA participation geared towards clearing the areas South of Kirkuk and pushing south into Tikrit and Bayji. Concurrently, a separate OP will be launched to retake Tikrit. Our sources in the country have confirmed that Suleimani himself will be overseeing the Tikrit OP. The amount of support the Qods Force and its Shia proxies will provide to the IA’s Mosul OP will be heavily dependent on the outcome of these two lines of effort. If they go badly or take longer than they thought, it would mean that the most important part of the IA force – the militias and the Qods Force – would be involved in a much more limited capacity than planned or not involved at all – further increasing the probability that the mission would be a failure.
GEN Suleimani: Doing what the US government has failed to do – build and maintain relationships
You can find more in-depth analysis on each of the above-mentioned points in these articles:
IS has recently launched an offensive against Samarra. Indeed the city holds a great deal of religious significance for Shia Muslims, but there’s also a tactical reason for targeting this particular population center. First, the city is where the IRGC-Qods Force is running its UAV operations. Its also the city with the Shia militia personnel that can respond the quickest should reinforcements be needed during the Tikrit OP – and they will. Tikrit is being defended in much the same way as Mosul, that is, it involves a combination of the play books used during the Second Battle of Fallujah and the Euphrates River Valley during Operation Steel Curtain with some updates, such as the inclusion of armor and heavy weapons.
Islamic State fighters attack Samarra ahead of army offensive
The KRG made it abundantly clear that they would not participate in the Mosul OP as long as Kirkuk and Irbil are threatened, and have stated that they will need heavier weaponry to counter the armored assets that IS has at their disposal. Also, the KRG voiced concerns about the IA’s capabilities stating that they’re simply not ready – and probably won’t be in the foreseeable future. A more damning indictment of the IA can be found when speaking with Peshmerga fighters themselves, with the descriptions of their Arab counterparts ranging from talks of their cowardice to colluding with IS – both of which are valid complaints considering how fast the IA disintegrated in Northern Iraq. IS has been fortifying Mosul and Tikrit with VBIEDs and IEDs along the main avenues of approach and at each intersection. We’ve also been receiving several reports of additional armor being brought in to bolster what they already seized from the IA when they initially fled Northern Iraq in panic, so the KRG’s concerns are well-warranted.
Kurds push for delay of Mosul attack
At Kurdish outpost, skepticism abounds about assault on Mosul
The Peshmerga has armored assets of their own – but not enough to close the gap with IS
IO is a very important component, but the administration’s approach thus far has been terrible. It wasn’t very good in the previous administration either for the record because in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US had a tendency to use cultural advisers who hadn’t lived in the target country in decades let alone having recent experience. The westernized Arab doesn’t have the same cultural knowledge as an individual with recent in country living. The administration’s recent push that economic opportunity will alleviate the problems with jihadists because they come from poor backgrounds. This is patently false as some of the most well known have come from middle class or higher upbringings such as Usama bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor that became a suicide bomber killing himself and several CIA personnel at FOB Chapman on 30 December 2009. Islamic State social media icon of butchery Mohammed Emwazi came from a middle class upbringing and graduated with a computer science degree. Yes, some come from poor backgrounds, but they come from diverse backgrounds not just the poor.
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