« Too much heat for Comey? | Main | A lesson in internet operations? TTG »

29 October 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


That mosuleye blog is really interesting & intense. I noticed in the comment
section someone posted a very anti-U.S. link. That was disconcerting.


1.DEBKAFile runs hot and cold but my understanding is that their sources among the Kurdish commands are very good. Any case, this report is wall-to-wall bad news:

"Pro-Iranian Shiites ready to lead Mosul operation
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
October 29, 2016 - 12:23 PM (IDT)

"DEBKAfile’s military sources note that coalition commanders erred by not taking Tal Afar in the early stage of the Mosul offensive and so blocking ISIS supply lines.

"The offensive was hobbled two days day earlier by the Kurdish decision to withdraw Peshmerga fighters from the operation to retake Mosul. President Masoud Barzani of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government stated Wednesday, Oct. 26, that his army had ended its role in the warfare, after cleansing dozens of mostly uninhabited villages on the road to Mosul, and did not intend to enter the city at this time.

"This decision by the KRG in Irbil was not published.

"Since the Kurds and the Shiite militias are out of it, who is left to finish the job and go into Mosul?

"The mission which started out as a grand coalition enterprise has been left now to US forces and the Iraqi army.

"However, Iraq’s elite 9th Golden Division and its federal anti-terror police unit have not made much headway in their advance against ISIS forces east of Mosul. Their commanders now warn the government in Baghdad that they can’t go any further without reinforcements.

"But there are no Iraqi military reserves to draw on, without stripping any more main Iraqi towns of their defenses and laying them open to Islamists assaults, like those ISIS staged successfully last week on the oil city of Kirkuk, the Kurdish town of Sinjar and Rutba near the Jordanian border.

"The long and short of it is that the Mosul offensive has virtually ground to a halt.


Maybe the US can talk some of these people back into the coalition but if the DEBKAFile report is correct, this is a disaster.

2. Get past CNN's somewhat misleading headline ("Thousands of displaced people flood Mosul as ISIS loses ground") to learn that as IS has fallen back from villages surrounding Mosul it's been driving the villagers toward Mosul in what looks to analysts as a tactic to add tens of thousands more human shields to the ones already captive in the city.

CNN reports these villagers are in poor condition, with no food. They've probably been starved as well by IS. So they're in no condition to protest when IS herds them toward Mosul.

CNN report filed by Sheena McKenzie and Tim Lister
Updated 7:36 PM ET, Sat October 29, 2016

A UN report tends to back up the CNN one. From the DEBKAFile report above:

"The UN Human Rights agency reported Friday that, since the Mosul offensive began on Oct. 17, Islamic State forces in Iraq have abducted tens of thousands of men, women and children from areas around Mosul and are using them as "human shields" in the city as Iraqi government troops advance."

See also this Oct 29 datelined CNN report about the UN one.

3. The DEBKAFile report also claims:

"Following their raids on key Iraqi cities, the Islamist State is preparing to launch surface missiles against Baghdad. ISIS may not confine its missile attacks to targets in Iraq. Our military sources report that the jihadists have laid hands on Syrian and Iraqi ground-to-ground missiles with a range of 500km and are holding them ready for attacks on Iraq’s neighbors, which could be Jordan. Israel too is in their sights."

How much stock to put into the claim about the missiles -- who knows, but the question would be how much Iraq/US commands are willing to take the claim into account.

4. "Iraq: Hundreds of Foreign Female Terrorists Driving ISIL's Suicide Vehicles
October 29, 2016

"TEHRAN (FNA)- The ISIL is using hundreds of female terrorists from different world countries to drive suicide vehicles of their husbands during the Mosul liberation operation by Iraq's joint military forces, media reports said.

"Most of ISIL's foreign terrorists and their wives have enrolled for suicide attacks," the Arabic-language media quoted a local force as saying.

"He reiterated that a sum of 450 ISIL terrorists and their wives who are mostly French or from the former Soviet republics have registered their names to take part in the suicide missions.

"The women have been ordered to drive the bomb-laden vehicles of their husbands to help them get closer to the Iraqi troops, while their husbands spray bullets at the Iraqi forces," the source added.

"Earlier on Saturday, Hashd al-Shaabi started its long-waited offensive against the ISIL West of the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

“The operation aims to cut supplies between Mosul and Raqqah (in Syria) and tighten the siege (against the ISIL) in Mosul and liberate (the town of) Tal Afar,” Ahmad al-Assadi, a spokesman for the forces said.



Raqqah became hot on the Turkish-American table when Abadi ordered PMU to take Talafar: Elijah J. Magnier


"so probably their best fighters have already left - and if they fled en masse,"

Funny how no actual news of such massed flight has come out.


"Maybe the US can talk some of these people back into the coalition but if the DEBKAFile report is correct, this is a disaster."

I don't think that either the Shi'a militia or the Peshmerga were ever expected to go into Mosul city. The Shi'a presence would be too provocative, and the Peshmerga have no interest in losing men to take a city they can't keep. Whether Mosul can be taken by the Iraqi army alone (+ US airstrikes) is another question, and no doubt why Da'ish is not running away.


that the U.S. intends to let ISIS flee to Raqqa and keep it under "control" there

I would have been very, very disappointed, b, if this would have been missing in your list.


As the jihadists rumble and quote the Koran, there is an interesting description of an earlier exposition on politics of Syria and Iraq in the obscure Old Testament book of Nahum. The region seems to be eternally cursed. Probably worth the read.


The White Helmet are AQ this is Daesh. But point taken.

mike allen

EOD techs around Mosul seem to be dying at a fast pace. Why aren't they destroying these IED's in place instead of trying to disarm them? Detonating mines or booby traps used to be doctrine as I recall. But I guess they are suspicious of Daesh using chemical agents within an IED. or perhaps they have seen that in previous IED explosions.

It is not just Navy Chief Jason Finan, but two peshmerga EOD techs as well in different incidents. Those pesh EOD teams only gear is old set of TL-13 pliers or a leatherman tool. They have none of the protective gear, and none of the high tech radiographic X-ray gear, ceramic tools, jammers, robots, etc that are SOP for modern day bomb squads and EOD units.



There were also a British contractor killed two months ago doing EOD work in Ramadi, another was wounded:



There are plenty of other questions as well. One is how many IS fighters are actually in Mosul. I've misplaced a report from about a week ago but it was to the effect that IS has been putting fighters into the city in very small numbers so as to avoid notice. How long they've been doing this, I don't recall the report said, but surely they started when the US coalition announced its intention.

Meanwhile, intel on what's happening inside the city is very poor. Although it's now instant death for a civilian to be caught with a cell phone, CNN reported a few days ago that some are calling to the outside world to report whatever they can observe. But but these calls are broken off at a second's notice by bad connections or by caution.

Meanwhile, a big player in this conflict is now the UN, which is watching like a hawk for civilian casualties and screaming bloody murder every time it sees any. Is this just out of the goodness of their hearts or are they carrying water for Al Saud and all Gulf governments that don't want to see IS ejected from Mosul? Or are the Russians breathing down their neck.

Anyhow, I could sit here the rest of the afternoon and list "meanwhiles."

Unless the US has rabbits up its sleeve, this plan to retake Mosul looks like amateur hour to me.


It seemed a good idea to someone in the US command to attack Mosul and Raqqa simultaneously, but the brainstorm touched off an uproar that quickly descended into a muddle.

An October 28 report from Voice of America, "Allies resist US plan to attack Raqqa," has a good summary of the muddle, which finds Ankara squabbling with Washington about the use of Syrian Kurdish forces to take Raqqa, and European/British NATO members quailing at the thought of further offending Erdogan or sending non-Arab forces into Raqqa.

Piled on top of waffling and squabbling is the problem that the Syrian Kurdish YPG is the only proxy ground force NATO has on hand that would stand a chance at routing Islamic State from Raqqa.

From an October 29 FARS report, the Syrian Army has clearly decided to make hay from the muddle and move up their timetable for taking back the city. Good luck to them.




Patrick Bahzad -- Remembering my manners, thank you for this post, and looking forward to part 2. Putting together a picture of the Syrian War is like trying to see a pitch dark terrain only by the light of lightning flashes. Trying to see war events in Iraq is like peering into a thick fog. So yours is a hard but very necessary task, which I greatly appreciate.


Your observations are news to me. Very troubling wrinkle if the bad guys have learned to pack chem into small IEDs/mines and do so in large number.

I wonder if sniffer military dogs could be trained to smell the different chemicals. Also the incredible giant mine-sniffing rats, who're even being taught to sniff out tuberculosis in a person.

However, even if this idea is feasible it takes time to implement. And it takes a special kind of rat -- one who is able and willing to focus for the training, which takes weeks. So I imagine there's a waiting list for the graduates. And the people who train these rats, from what I know about their organization, might not want to put them into a hot war zone.

As for war dogs -- well, would it work? If so, again, training takes time.

In any case, the Coalition has to solve this problem, if it is a problem at this stage. On the other hand, it looked to me, from the equipment I saw on the Afghan bomb sqaud reality show, that the detonation approach is very expensive. That would be one reason a lot of IEDs are still defused rather than detonated.

See the short video at Military Times about Russian sappers clearing out hundreds of mines at Palmyra this April. They did do detonations, but many were defused. Why? Beyond expense, maybe there are technical reasons? Or maybe the Russian equip. just isn't as good as US? These are wild guesses.


different clue

Thoughts of "what happens after" have kept bothering me. After going to all the trouble of re-conquering Mosul and perhaps the rest of Iraqi ISIStan, who would want ISIS 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 etc. to keep re-emerging and re-emerging and re-emerging again and again and again in Iraqi Arab Sunnistan?

Well, Israel has been referrenced, and also KSA and all the Lesser Gulfies. But they can't make the Shia Supremacist Regime in Baghdad re-oppress the Sunniraqi Arabs into calling forth another Jihadi Insurgency all over again. And neither can they prevent the Shiaraqis from doing it. Who could preVENT the Shiaraqis from re-oppressing the Sunniraqi Arabs all over again? The Government of Iran. If the Government of Iran wanted peace and order in Iraq, the G of I could beat the Baghdad Regime into submission on that point.

So why doesn't the IranGov force the Baghdad Regime to offer a New Deal to the Sunni Arabs of Iraq? Because the IranGov wants to keep Iraq disordered and too weak to become a rival Shia power center in the region. Because a perpetual Sunni Arab insurgency keeps the Iraqi Shia perpetually scared and helpless and dependent on Iranian protection and hence obedient to Iranian orders and compliant with Iranian desires. So Iran COvertly wants to preserve ISIS after ISIS after ISIS in al Anbar just as strongly as Israel Overtly wants to preserve this particular ISIS. And as long as the IranGov wants to maintain insurgency-breeding conditions in al Anbar to keep Iraq weak and dependent and obedient, those conditions will be maintained.

Patrick Bahzad

Battle was launched now as result of different factors. Mosul is in Iraq first and foremost, let's not forget.

As far as the US election is concerned, I think it's more about Obama admin wishing to create facts on the ground that will be binding for the next admin, regardless of who gets elected.

In any case, it won't have a bearing on the election results. The FBI investigations into HRC mails might have a much deeper impact.

Patrick Bahzad

Coalition is going to prevail militarily, and IS is going to lose Mosul, but it's gonna take a lot longer than many ppl think.

Beides, some military defeats can be spun for propagandistic purposes and I'm sure IS will try and do that, showing how long they managed to resist the "overwhelming" forces that were fielded against them. Something along those lines.

Patrick Bahzad

I don't think there will be a massive move to Syria, because that is exactly where we'd want them to go, making easy targets over large patches of desert.

Some may have moved/escaped already but remember, IS' hearland has been Iraq, always. With all the talk about Syria and IS there, that is a fact that is forgotten too often.

Many ppl in IS are Iraqis. So my guess is some of them will try and rebuild their organisation in other regions of Iraq, as they've announced themselves already (through Adnani) and they won't give up and move towards Syria.

Western Anbar and some areas of Diyala in particular could become/remain IS strongholds in Iraq.

Patrick Bahzad

I don't think the outcome of the battle for Mosul will determine the endresult of the war in Syria, but as I said, I think there will be important spill-over effects.

The containment strategy against Iran has already failed btw ...

Patrick Bahzad


Anything is possible.


Just saw this, haven't read yet:

"A conversation with the general running the war against ISIS -
Peter Bergen"
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
Updated 5:14 PM ET, Sun October 30, 2016



Here is an RT article on the Palmyra mine clearing operation. The final stats are:

"Earlier this week Russian engineers completed clearing of explosives the architectural and historical part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. With the help of Uran-6 robots and specially-trained dogs Russian engineers have cleared 234 hectares of land, 23km (14 miles) of roads and 10 architectural objects since April 2, the head of the Russian Army's engineering unit, Yury Stavitsky, said on Thursday. In total, 2,991 explosive devices, including 432 makeshift bombs, have been defused. Ninety-eight Russian servicemen have been involved in the effort."

They didn't lose anyone in the process. If IRC the full city could be detonated by cell phone so they used jamming to prevent it, and also the explosives were wired to the power points so they would detonate when the power was restored. They said some of the IEDs were problematic because they were "backyard" engineered so were not in the "standard" playbook.

The linked article is about a discovery of a cache of over 12000 explosive devices that were the raw materials for the manufacture of IEDs. If Palmyra had 3000 IEDs when ISIS left can you imagine Mosul?


And then on the other side you have Israel wanting more or less the same condition. What are are the chances of peace in the ME?

mike allen

Looks like Daesh tunnelers in Mosul have mini versions of Seattle's Big Bertha tunneling machine.


I cannot tell whether it is home-made or perhaps pilfered from Iraq's fledgling mining industry. In any case, with one or two of those 'mini-Berthas' plus two years time, could they have turned the Mosul underground into a complex network of interconnecting tunnels and chambers a hundred kilometers long??? If so let us hope those warrens are full of the rabbit-hearted and not the venomous suicidal ones.

Linda Lau

Patrick - that you for your thoughtful analysis. What do you think about the larger Turkish role as Erdogan makes all sorts of provocative statements?

different clue

mike allen,

If these tunnels are interconnected, would it be possible to fill the tunnel complex up with a fuel-air aerosol or fog mixture, and then ignite it?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad