The Battle for Mosul: Concept Versus Reality

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Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq, after Baghdad. It is a city of 1.5 million people (according to UN estimates). It is a city where Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, Yezidis, Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmens, and even some followers of Christianity have coexisted for a very long time. Mosul is also the informal political and economic capital of Sunni Iraq. An ethnically multifaceted city, it has the highest percentage of Christians of all the Iraqi cities.

Economically, Mosul is a sufficiently large center of oil production. Before the Russian operation to target and destroy the oil caravans that had followed the “northern route”(Iraq-Syria-Turkey), ISIL received up to $ 50 million per month from this trade. Mosul is also a transportation hub. Three major highways pass through Mosul: the Baghdad (№1) – Mosul – Syrian border – Aleppo (M4), the Baghdad (№2) – Mosul – Turkish border,  and the Mosul – Kirkuk (№80). The branch of the so-called Baghdad railway also passes through the city. The city is located on the largest river in the Middle East, the Tigris River. The largest hydroelectric power station in Iraq is situated on this river (60 kilometers from the city).

On October 16, 2016, a decisive attempt to storm Mosul was once again declared. It should be noted that for ISIL, Mosul is their last stronghold in Iraq and a key source of income from oil sales. For the governments of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan, it is a question of control over the region in which, first of all, their financial interests depend. For their western colleagues, the operation represents a important PR campaign and a source of political dividends.

One of the leaders of a Shia armed group of Iraq, Hadi Al-Amery, declared that Mosul on degree of duration and intensity of fighting, can become one more Aleppo.

Structure of coalition forces

  • Iraqi security forces (54000 soldiers)
  • Peshmerga (up to 40000 soldiers)
  • Sunni Militia loyal to the government (to 9000 people)
  • Shia militias, units of Turkmens, Yazidi and Christians that operate as a part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)  (up to 5000 people)
  • Approximately 5000 American servicemen
  • More than 130 artillery weapon systems, several hundred of armored vehicles, and also about 90 warplanes, helicopters and fighting unmanned aerial vehicles.

A patchwork coalition of anti-ISIS forces inevitably creates additional problems during operations, firstly concerning the organization of troops’ cooperation and coordination. About 9000 Islamic State terrorists full of determination not to hand over the city, equipped with many vehicle bound improvised explosive devises (VBIED) and chemical weapons stand in opposition to them. The absolute advantage in numbers, equipment and professionalism definitely favor of the coalition.

However, anti-ISIS forces face a number of problems and the worse humanitarian situation in the city is only one of them. On the UN’s initiative, 5 camps for 120000 people are ready to be organized. It is obviously not enough for the estimated 1.5 million people that reside in the city

There are former officers of Saddam’s army among ISIL fighters who are natives of Mosul and who perfectly know the city and its communications. This fact makes storming of the city almost an impracticable task. Among the enlisted personnel of ISIL there is a significant number of fighters who have experience of conducting urban warfare in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Libya, and Syria. These people know all about warfare in an urban environment. The western media draw the Islamic State terrorist as wild, cruel and stupid. Such light-mindedness in the enemy’s assessment already leads to casualties. In less than a month of combat in the suburbs of Mosul, in areas with a civilian population loyal to the government coalition, there have already been more than 3000 people killed and wounded, 22 tanks, and more than 120 lightly armored vehicles destroyed.

Defense of the city by ISIL is conducted in due regard for the tenants of military science. The city has been under the control of ISIL for a long time and is respectively prepared in regard to the engineering of defensive positions. As the Iraqi military has repeatedly attempted to storm Mosul in the past, IS commanders have surely carried out measures to strengthen the most vulnerable sites of defense. Tactical methods of ISIL fighters are characterized by quick maneuvering in a square with use of these prepared avenues of approach, ambushes and traps. Grenade launchers (RPG-7, RPG-18, RPG-22) are used in large quantities and mortars are more rare in the conditions of fighting in the city. In the areas where the enemy is most likely to appear, mines traps and land mines are already prepared. On highways, ISIL uses VBIED and long-range artillery in large quantities. The nature of these attacks demoralizes the opponent, and reduces the rate of his offensive. As camouflage security from air strikes, and also with the purpose to complicate overcoming defense of the city, holes and trenches with oil products are set on fire. From the beginning of the latest Mosul operation, IS conducted a counterattack near the city of Kirkuk, in an effort to bleed resources away from the coalition’s efforts against Mosul.  Similar attacks were made in 2015 and 2016 to distract attention away from the city. IS uses long-range artillery, including shells filled with mustard gas and chlorine in areas which are attacked by peshmerga units. On October 20, 2016 Islamic State terrorists arranged an act of sabotage in Al-Mishraq, at a sulfur plant. This action resulted in the mass poisoning of civilians. ISIL is also using civilians as human shields to prevent air strikes.

The general concept of the operation is as follows: Units of peshmerga conduct an attack from the North and the East. The ISF, with the assistance of Shiite militia conduct an attack from the South. The armed groups of Kurds are tasked with blockading the city. The ISF takes Mosul under control.

There are about 5000 American soldiers deployed near Mosul. Official sources have specified that there are about 200 soldiers in the combat zone, generally it is USSOCOM personnel and forward air observers. How the remaining 4800 soldiers are employed has yet to be specified. As far as information is available, 1,700 soldiers of the 2nd brigade of the 101st airborne division are placed at Qayyarah air base, approximately 60 km from Mosul. Units of the 18th field artillery brigade are deployed at the same location to provide fire support to the American paratroopers. Besides that, the USMC battalion (Task Force Spartan) also acts in this area. Units of the 82nd airborne division shall replace their colleagues from the 101st division. They completed a two-month course in urban warfare, and also  warfare in a chemical weapons environment. An exact time frame of rotating the airborne units has not been announced. This means that the Pentagon may be keeping the paratroopers of the 101st airborne division in reserve.

It appears that the pre-election project of the Democratic Party of the USA, under the title “Quick Capture of Mosul” has, seemingly, failed together with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Now, the tactics of the USA administration have changed. This may mean that Donald Trump gets dragged into a quagmire of a war. That being stated, high-ranking Pentagon officials no longer believe that the Iraqi military is capable of taking Mosul, and have been preparing a plan with greater participation of the US Armed Forces.

Troops of the USA have already sustained losses: 16 killed and 27 wounded in the first 3 weeks of the offensive. The majority of these US casualties were due to artillery fire, the detonation of mines and friendly fire from coalition aircraft.

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  • Mossul proves that mulitculturalism always ends in Genocide.

    • Ryan Law

      your confusing western capitalism with multiculturalism mosul has been multicultural for over 2000 years, its where the term muslim came from

      • it was multicultural dude…and yes multiculturalism always ends in chaos and massmurder

        • Indebtnomore

          In recent history it only end in mass murder when the US get involved

        • Ryan Law

          lol they sure did a job on you, operation mocking bird eat your heart out

        • Ryan Law

          the history of humanity for the last 5000+ years has been groups of tribes living together in relative balance only for some rapacious empire to come and conquer them for profit then elevate one of the tribes to enforcer status and set them to keeping their brothers in line while turning as many of the tribes against each other as possible.
          its called THE OLD DIVIDE AND RULE :P

          • they have killed each other for thousands of years.Capitalism or empire has nothing to do with that.Its multiculturalism that kills which means enforced entry of people that are not of the same ethnicity that causes problem.Mossul ended like all the other projects of multiculturalism.It failed after a massive slaughter.Multiculturalism always fails.

  • Ole Johansen

    Must be hard for the American taxpayers once they understand they first funded ISIS and now funds the war against them. Its hard to believe someone is not going on trial for this.

    • David James

      We did not and do not fund ISIS. We have however dropped 45k bombs on them I guess you could call that “funding” them?

      • gustavo

        Maybe you don’t read Pentagon and CIA reports of funding ISIS, and the moderated terrorists. Plesae, pay attention to your own people declaration. Do not lie yourself and to others.

      • Engelsman

        45K bombs dropped on ISIS – to what effect? That amount of bombs should have killed all of them yet until the Russian Intervention ISIS captured more territory each day despite USA “bombing”. Can you explain this anomaly?

        • Red Tick Alert

          Maybe he meant “45K bombs dropped FOR ISIS”.

      • Red Tick Alert

        Are you for real ? – there is even an official Washington paper stating that you fund ISIS. This isn’t he best but if you look, it is all out there – http://www.infowars.com/trump-is-right-heres-proof-hillary-obama-founded-isis/.

        • mutatron

          That doesn’t say we funded ISIS, it says we funded the mujahedin to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. That was generations ago.

          • Red Tick Alert

            The US created AQ – that is ISIS … they are the same. You watch CNN or BBC ?.

            What was ISIS before – ISIL – what does the L stand for ? …. here is a clue = Levant

            Now do a bit of research on that word ….you wont find much on it as it is being deleted little by little but here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levant

            Do you see a Country mention in the “Levant” that the scum Politian’s would not want mentioned ?.= YEP, Israel … and suddenly they changed ISIL -> ISIS (which also had some connotations) and then -> IS.

            Over to you.

          • mutatron

            No, Al Qaeda is not ISIS, they are separate organizations with separate leadership, history, and goals. And ISIL/ISIS makes no difference – people who know aren’t fooled because they know difference, and people who don’t know aren’t fooled because they don’t know one from the other. Besides they changed their own name to الدولة الإسلامية ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah, which just means Islamic State.

            The US mujahedin to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but groups that sprung up after that were on their own. The Taliban came after the Soviet exit, and Al Qaeda after that. Al Qaeda would never have taken money from the US and never needed to, they got funding from rich Saudi kids like Osama bin Laden.

          • Al Qaeda, “The Base,” was created by the CIA to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. A Mujahidien group later became “the Taliban” (Islamic scholars) after the Russians withdrew. ISIL grew out of the chaos the US left in Iraq when they pulled down after 20 years of crippling sanctions and 11 years of war – it was formed by ex-officers from Iraq’s army which had been disbanded shortly after the US invasion in 2003.

            All have, of course, grown significantly since then and their agendas have changed from getting the Americans out of Muslims lands to getting all infidels out of Muslim lands and installing their own ideas of a “caliphate.”

          • That it was “generations ago” only proves that the US has been doing this for “generations”

    • daniel

      The US is still supporting ISIS maybe not in Iraq but in Syria through who else? The CIA. They (CIA) have problems to understand that these same fighters can go back anytime to Iraq and then fight Americans.

      • Better they go to America and continue their battle there.
        America gave rise to them – let Americans experience what they do.

  • Ryan Law

    5 camps of 120,000 should be enough to house the survivors unfortunately, go look at what remains of falujia, mosul will look like that by the end, one big field of rubble

  • H. A

    yooo, this article is actually fucked up. 54000 iraqi soldiers, are you even listening to yourself. 5000 PMU fighters. holy fuck, where are u getting these figures lol

  • Robert

    ….

  • bcbingram

    One thing I am totally sure of is: American government has known ISIS receives BIG money from oil transported to Turkey and ‘other ‘ countries.
    Isis transported the oil over the roads in big truck tankers.
    Even our smallest helicopters can kill a tanker truck, easily, Yet we did not stop the oil supplies.
    Obama betrayed the coalition against ISIS.