On October 23, the operation to retake Mosul from the ISIS terrorist group entered the second week. Last week, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), the Kurdish Peshmerga, supported by the US-led coalition’s air power and special forces, launched pushed toward the ISIS-controlled city from the north, east and south, battling terrorists in a belt of villages in the Mosul countryside.
Numerous PR reports in the mainstream media ingored the fact that the joint anti-ISIS forces met with fierce resistance as ISIS succesfully used suicide truck bombs and counter-attacks in a number of areas. For example in Kirkuk at least 80 people were killed in the clashes during the ISIS counter attack and the ISF and the Peshmerga were pushed to deploy massive reinforcements in the area.
ISIS also burns oil fields in order to worsen the visibility for US-led coalition warplanes.
Satellite imagery of Mosul:
During the previous week of operations, the anti-ISIS forces took control of a number of villages and some towns in the Mosul countryside. The ISF liberated the Christian town of Bartella, 15 kilometers east of Mosul. The Iraqi army’s 9th Division made gains in the nearby town of Hamdaniyah (claimed to be liberated). North of Mosul, Peshmerga units seized few villages and, along with the ISF, encircled the strategic town of Bashiqa.
South of Mosul, the ISF also took control of a number of villages. Nonetheless, the ISF is still deployedaround 50 kilometers from the city.
The US-led coalition provides the air and ground support for the ISF and Peshmerga forces. Accordng to official sources, at least 100 US soldiers embedded with Iraqi units on a battalion level. Hundreds more US soldiers are deployed near the front lines. At least 1 American soldier was killed during the operation. The incident took place near Bashiqa.
25 Peshmerga fighters have been killed since the operation began. Baghdad has not released any information about casualties among the Iraqi military.
The Mosul offensive has also aggravated Iraqi-Turkish tensions over the presence of some 500 Turkish troops at a base near Bashiqa, Iraq. Baghdad says the troops are there without its permission and has declared that they have to leave the country. Ankara has refused and declared a will to play a role in the Mosul operation.
US-led coalition and Iraqi sources say that the operation is progressing ahead of schedule. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the battle for Mosul could take months. All will depend on the ISIS will to fight to the death inside Iraq’s second-largest city.