Iraqi forces have begun their counterattack to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a statement released by Operation Inherent Resolve officials.
(October 17) Mosul’s moment has arrived. The U.S.-led coalition has requested that Iraq keep its air force jets stay away from Mosul, as at least 45,000 troops are reportedly advancing on the country’s second-largest city, held by the Islamic State group since their convoys rolled into town back in June 2014. Some reports say the force holds up to 60,000 troops, including some 4,000 Peshmerga fighters reportedly working from the south and east.
Airstrikes and artillery reportedly began early in the morning, with French and American fires reportedly targeting eastern and western Mosul while thousands of additional forces continued to move into position.
Before we get too far along, let’s take a moment to think of the dark times ahead for the estimated 1.2 million civilians still in Mosul. The Iraqi government is reportedly so worried that a general told Buzzfeed‘s Mike Biglio, reporting northeast of Mosul in Khazer, that Baghdad’s only hope is that those civilians will just shelter in their homes. “Ominous days for them ahead,” Giglio writes.
The offensive, in broad strokes: The “Mosul strategy targets ISIS from four sides,” wrote Middle East scholar Hassan Hassan. “Tel Afar [and the] Nineveh plain are major fronts in their own right. Joint forces are based in Qayyara. Forces to the city’s western side will be mostly to prevent ISIS from redeployment into Syria.” Read his entire Twitter thread on key considerations from the battle, beginning here.
For what it’s worth: The IO efforts have already begun alongside the artillery and aircraft: an intelligence phone line for Mosul citizens to feed Iraqi troops info was spoiled by ISIS on Sunday.
The “defensive” suicide attacks have been coming at a rapid clip: 11 in roughly two hours, terrorism scholar Charlie Winter writes this morning.
About that relatively open route to the west: safety is not guaranteed, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, told the Washington Post.
One of the city’s five bridges is already damaged. That happened on Saturday when coalition airstrikes targeted some boats on the Tigris, and destroyed part of the bridge in the process. For what it’s worth, all five of the city’s bridges were reportedly rigged to blow as recently as Wednesday.
Here‘s a 63-second video on the stakes of the Mosul offensive, via Agence France-Presse.
And Kurdish Rudaw News is live-streaming some of the action here.
U.S. officials told The Daily Beast the timeline for taking the city could take weeks or months. Recall, of course, that unnamed U.S. officials also said the offensive on Mosul would begin “in weeks.” That was 19 months ago.
Bring on the selfies. Here‘s one from an Iraqi pilot. Expect thousands more.
urkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says: “Don’t forget me.” Although his actual quote was: “We will be in the operation and we will be at the table,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. “Our brothers are there and our relatives are there. It is out of the question that we are not involved.” More on that angle from AFP reporting out of Istanbul on Sunday, here.
Reminder: “While the Mosul operation is key to degrading the ISIS threat, there is risk in the coming weeks that ISIS external operations based in Raqqa will try surge terror into Europe,” terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank tweeted Sunday.
Mosul sitrep: It’s all proceeding “more quickly than we had programmed,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says. After three days of shaping fires, airstrikes and ground force maneuvers from multiple directions—as well as a personal appearance by Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday—Iraq’s elite counterterrorism police of the Golden Division have entered the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group. The force reportedly joined the fray around midnight east coast time, quickly finding itself in a fierce battle in the town of Bartella, some 20 kms east of Mosul. (That town was declared “liberated” of ISIS some seven hours later.)
About an hour before the Golden Division’s first reported movement, a linked “large-scale” offensive began featuring Peshmerga troops converging on the country’s second-largest city from three fronts along the north and northeast, Kurdistan’s General Command announced. Buzzfeed‘s Mike Giglio said the Pesh hope to follow behind the CT police in the hopes of clawing back more than 15 villages on the city’s outskirts. The fight, of course, has not been without its harrowing moments—as this video of Pesh desperately working to prevent an ISIS suicide car bomber from reaching their front lines reveals.