U.S. military spokespeople say U.S.-led coalition has launched more air strikes in the past week than at any time in the battle against IS, in support of the assault on Mosul. U.S. claims to have used 1,776 (sic) items of ordnance including bombs, rockets and artillery shells, and to have killed hundreds of IS fighters and destroyed large amounts of equipment and defenses.
Turkey insists on joining the offensive over the objections of Baghdad. This is really a question of Iraqi sovereignty in Kurdistan. Despite Ankara's conflict with the PKK and Kurdish parties in Syria, it has reached an accommodation with the Kurdish Regional Government in Irbil and appears ready to support the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. In return, the KRG has repudiated Kurdish parties that have designs on Turkish territory. Turkey of course wants to have influence in Kurdistan and allying with the peshmerga in the assault on Mosul helps to seal the relationship. Of course if the KRG honored Iraqi sovereignty in its territory, this could not happen.
Iraqi forces make gains in Christian towns southeast of Mosul.
Here's the story of two Christian towns recaptured by Iraqi forces.
Peshmerga repel a counterattack in Sinjar.
IS also counterattacks in Rutba in Anbar.
The Economist discusses IS ideology and looks toward potential positive outcomes from the collapse of the self-proclaimed Caliphate.
However, many observers argue that failure to achieve political resolution and stability in Iraq following the conquest of Mosul will allow the IS to continue to operate as a guerrilla organization and lead to continual turmoil.
Renad Mansour discusses these prospects for CNN.
Middle East Eye gives an overview of the state of battle. Iraqi forces are said to be within 5 km of the city.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Posted by Cervantes at 9:52 AM
Saturday, October 22, 2016
IS assault on Kirkuk ends with 48 attackers dead. Fourteen civilians were also killed -- 13 workers at a power plant including 4 Iranians, and one reporter killed by a sniper. Twenty nine members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed. Some of the attackers may still be at large.
The attackers are said to have entered Kirkuk through a gap between Kurdish and Shiite militia lines.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is in Iraq, to meet with Iraqi officials and his commanders. This Time story discusses the current military situation in some detail.
Iraqi forces capture the center of Hamdaniyah, 20 kilometers from Mosul, though resistance continues in the area. The town is said to be largely deserted.
After meeting with Ashton Carter, PM Abadi declines an offer of Turkish help in the battle for Mosul.
IS blows up a sulphur plant near Qayyara. The resulting fumes kill 2 civilians and force U.S. personnel at the base to wear respiratory protection.
For unexplained reasons, IS has destroyed Mosul's largest hotel.
Also for unexplained reasons, IS is said to have murdered 284 of the civilians captured to serve as human shields.
AP blog reports on death of a journalist by sniper fire; unsuccessful attack on a convoy near Bartella, other recent developments.
U.S. fatality from Thursday is identified as Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three.
In Afghanistan, as low-level fighting continues around the country, a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan to discuss possible resumption of peace talks, following previously undisclosed talks with Afghan and U.S. diplomats in Qatar.
Posted by Cervantes at 7:08 AM
Friday, October 21, 2016
IS attacks on government buildings in Kirkuk and a nearby power plant Result in deaths of 6 police and 16 civilians in Kirkuk, and 13 workers at the power plant. At least 12 IS militants, including 2 suicide bombers, are dead, but others are said to be at large. Four of the dead at the power plant were Iranian technicians.
UN human rights office says IS has abducted 550 families from villages near Mosul and is holding them near key locations as human shields.
Americans killed in Afghanistan are identified as Sgt. Douglas L. Riney, 26, from Fairview, Illinois, assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; and civilian Michael G. Sauro, 40, assigned to Defense Ammunition Center at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.
Posted by Cervantes at 7:07 AM
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Iraqi and Kurdish forces launch separate offensives, with Iraqi special forces advancing from the south to Bartella and peshmerga forces advancing from the northeast near Bashiqa. Booby traps, suicide car bomb attacks, and dug in IS troops continue to slow progress but PM Abadi says progress is faster than expected.
Conditions in the city of Mosul are growing desperate and it is impossible for civilians to flee.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on the phone from inside Mosul, Abu Yazan, 36, who didn't want his real name used fearing reprisals from the group also known as ISIS, said fleeing the city was "not possible" at this stage. "There is no way out for us as families. Even if we think about fleeing the city, that is not possible at the time being. We are being held hostages; ISIL took the whole city of Mosul as hostage," said the father of three children.IS commanders are reported to be fleeing the city.
French president Hollande appears to confirm this and is concerned that IS fighters are escaping to Raqqa. He makes his remarks at a meeting in Paris of members of the U.S.-led coalition to discuss plans for stabilization after Mosul is recaptured.
However IS claims that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will remain in Mosul after a failed coup attempt. There are conflicting reports that he has already fled, but Iraqi deputy PM Hoshyar Zebari says he is indeed still there.
Enslaved Yazidi women are said to have been moved from Mosul to Raqqa.
Update: U.S. service member killed by roadside bomb in northern Iraq "near Mosul." No further information as of now.
Posted by Cervantes at 9:03 AM
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Some 5,000 people have fled from the Mosul area to al-Hol camp in Syria in recent days, where Save the Children says conditions are appalling and the facility is unprepared to receive more refugees. The camp is "littered with waste and faeces, with a looming risk of outbreaks of disease". It said there are just 16 toilets shared by more than 9,000 people, many of whom only have access to dirty, untreated water.
Iraqi and Kurdish authorities set up a camp with 5,000 tents near Mosul. This will not be enough to receive the expected number of refugees, however.
The advance on Mosul is slowed by harrying tactics by IS defenders using suicide truck bombs. Often, as in the battle described here, they are destroyed by tank fire before they can be effective. However, defenders hang on with mortar and rifle fire.
Tribune News Services describes the military situation more generally. Despite the resistance, the far superior weaponry of the attacking forces, notably tanks, along with air support, makes slow but continual progress inevitable. This report also notes that Shiite militias have pledged only to capture Tal Afar, and not to enter Mosul.
Nevertheless Dexter Filkins is very concerned about the participation of Shiite militias in the operation,
Peshmerga forces have stopped their advance to consolidate their positions. They fight off a counterattack near Sinjar.
Here is a description of a battle in Bojwana village to the south of the city.
Iraqi armor is now said to be 3 or 4 miles from the city. This CNN story mentions several engagements.
Ibrahim al-Marashi looks forward to the aftermath of the fight for Mosul.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will face the daunting challenges of governing a post-ISIL Iraq and post-conflict security issues: first, the reintegration of territory and populations that were under ISIL control; second, agreeing to Iraq's internal borders with the Kurds; and third, presiding over a fragmented, sectarian state to deal with the aforementioned issues. This is one of the few occasions where I find myself arguing for American interference in domestic Iraqi affairs.
Update: An assailant wearing an Afghan army uniform kills a U.S. service member and a U.S. civilian at a U.S. base in Kabul. An additional service member and 2 additional civilians were injured. The assailant was killed. More information when it becomes available.
Posted by Cervantes at 6:23 AM
Monday, October 17, 2016
Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi announces the beginning of the offensive to retake Mosul. Thirty-thousand Iraqi government and allied forces, including Kurdish peshmerga and Arab militias, are taking part in the offensive to re-take the city from an estimated 4-8,000 IS fighters. Up to 1.5 million civilians are believed still to be in the city.
The U.S. Department of Defense announces U.S. participation through Operation Inherent Resolve. The OIR coalition will provide "air support, artillery, intelligence, advisors and forward air controllers," Townsend said in the statement, adding that the supporting forces "will continue to use precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians."
Peshmerga forces are advancing from the northeast and claim to have taken 5 villages.
Washington Post reporters dispatch from Khazir, from which the Kurdish offensive has been launched.
DPA reports on the Iraqi push from Qayyara to the south as well as giving some details on peshmerga progress.
The UN lacks resources to adequately deal with the expected flood of displaced people. Civilians lack safe escape routes. (The second link is to an AP blog, which has frequent updates.)
BBC coverage includes some helpful maps and tactical discussion.
Time provides background coverage on the city and its significance.
(I will provide frequent updates as developments warrant.)
Update: The Guardian discusses the role of U.S. special forces acting as "Joint terminal air controllers," that is troops near the front lines who act as spotters for air strikes. The article discusses some specific targets hit by U.S. aircraft as the offensive began.
Posted by Cervantes at 6:10 AM
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Although government forces have regained control of Kunduz city proper, fighting continues in the vicinity and thousands of displaced people are not returning, due to the uncertain security situation and damage to the city infrastructure. People are staying in camps in Mazar-e Sharif.
However, Mazar-e Sharif may not be so safe either, as a planted bomb in the city injures 3 people.
The Afghan government plans to investigate the recent Taliban takeover of Kunduz. Whatever.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the battle for Mosul appears imminent as Iraqi planes drop leaflets over the city warning of the coming battle, U.S. artillery begins heavy shelling of IS positions, and Massud Barzani says the time for the offensive has come. We will provide daily updates once it begins.
Posted by Cervantes at 5:53 AM