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02 January 2017


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Good insight. Thanks.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

Maybe the ICTS forces should drop 'barrel bombs'...? Seriously, if there are heavy civilian casualties, we will not hear much about it in the corporate media.


Been watching Euronews* this morning. They were showing the results of the post New Year fighting in Mosul, with some Iraqi general claiming that "we now control most eastern city". Somewhere else, and long time before, I've read that the government control "40% of Eastern Mosul". Another source claimed "40 out of 56 city blocks in the Eastern Mosul".

I can't help byt laugh at this blatant lies. The sad and painful truth looks more like this:


Maybe my eyes are deceiving me, but this does not look like "40%" or "most" of the Eastern Mosul. Or are you going to tell me, dear Iraqi commanders, that in just a few days you SUDDENLY conquered enormous parts of the city?

"Undoubtedly, IS' positions and command centres will have been buried deep underground, in the immediate vicinity of hospitals, schools and bakeries. This is where our commitment to avoiding the Russian style approach to Aleppo will truly be tested, because getting those targets without resorting to a similar kind of tactics will definitely be a daunting task."


"The way the battle is going to shape up will finally depend to a significant degree on our approach to CAS, airstrikes and artillery use. If the situation looks more and more deadlocked, chances are, we might ease up on the strict ROEs we decided to stick to up until now. In any case, the only thing that seems certain is that a lot more blood will be split before this battle is over."

This is truly a crux of the problem – the ideology. And a potential PR disaster, that no amount of servile pressitides from the "Free and Independent Western Media" (tm) could massage back into "okay" or even "meh, big deal". Because "falling to Russia's level" is not an option.

*By now there is precious little of "Euro" in their news, to be frank.



thanks for describing what I have seen glimmers of in the news. According to Patrick Cockburn, some battalions in the Golden Division - Baghdad's only effective military force - have taken 50% casualties. And all this while in the suburbs. Projection forward would presumably turn Golden Division useless in a couple of months, at which point, Iraq would either turn loose the Shia Militias or have no effective force to counter any significant problem including ISIS - the security services have a track record of fleeing even when they outnumber ISIS 20 to one. SST has emphasized many times that the creation of an effective fighting force is a very consuming (time and experience) process - have the neocons become so embedded that the pentagon no longer knows this?

Is there some scenario where the Iragi govt actually becomes broken and unable to retake Mosul? I suppose Erdogan could easily stoke up some serious trouble. At this point Iraq appears not to have the ability to protect its borders. Meanwhile there are a lot of unemployed jihadi's in Idlib who are either going to end up causing problems in Turkey, or become Baghdad's problem....


The attempted distractions have already started. Bomb blasts in Najaf, Samarra and Baghdad. A dozen women burned to death in a minivan in Sadr City, many more expected to die soon or live in agony from their burns.

Why daesh thinks this is a winning strategy is beyond me. It will be their death knell in Iraq. I guess they are trying for a bigger prize: inciting an all-out Shiite-Sunni war.


Re: the Cannae reference, it certainly appears so far that there isn't a Hannibal anywhere to be found.

Chris Chuba

Regarding the stress of having the ICTS do all of the fighting and underutilizing the other troops, here is lesson 3 from Russia's battle of Grozny ...

"The psychological impact of high intensity urban combat is so intense that you should maintain a large reserve that will allow you to rotate units in and out of combat. If you do this, you can preserve a unit for a fairly long time. If you don't, once it gets used up, it can't be rebuilt."

In Dec., Aleppo collapsed rather quickly, is it fair to attribute this to ruthless, indiscriminate bombing?

I'm not a military guy, I defer to you and others, but I read the daily updates on both SouthFront and "Al Masdar News". To me, it looked like the SAA and allies did a good job of keeping sustained pressure on the Al Qaeda defenses on multiple fronts until they just got fatigued and collapsed. It looked like effective use of ground troops in combination to whatever fire support they had.

The SOHR put civilian deaths in Eastern Aleppo at 2,000 between July to Dec. This is high but not the 'genocide' that the MSM was claiming. I would not be surprised if these numbers are inflated by at least 2X (as were Western numbers on the number of civilians in Aleppo). I'm certain that hundreds died at Aleppo but I suspect that Mosul will have a higher death toll if that is ever tallied. However, the Iraqi forces will get a pass on it from the MSM.

In short, I believe that the civilian death toll will end up being lower at Aleppo because of the skill displayed by the SAA while experimentation will drive them higher at Mosul. I read one account where it looked like the Iraqis are really quick on the trigger in calling in airstrikes, even when it is counter-productive.


I was in Mosul in the winter of 05-06. It was nothing but rain, cold, and mud. I spent Christmas Day on top of an abandoned house based off "hot intel" that some donkey cart had MANPADS and was coming across.

There were no MANPADS. There was no donkey. But in spite of the snivel gear there were a few frostbitten soldiers due to sleet and freezing rain.

In other words this is bogged down, hard to maneuver terrain, and that's just in the non paved parts. The city is, indeed, a total frickin warren. A few main routes of access, and then you have streets that narrow until they turn into pedestrian paths through residential neighborhoods.

Its going to take an Aleppo style op to try and capture that city. Nothing less will, IMHO, power through the obstacles that are part and parcel of the city.

Thanks as well for mentioning the joke of the "resistance". For a while there I couldn't go a week without some breathless article that sounded like a chain email your grandma would forward about DEADLY FEMALE KURDISH SNIPER LOOSE INSIDE MOSUL KILLING ISIS COMMANDERS. Yeah yeah yeah. More Red Sonya jerk off material.


It appears that the figures ISIS has been putting out for Iraqi dead are actually accurate. At the beginning of December, the UN said 2,000 Iraqi troops had been killed in November and another 750 in October bringing the total Iraqi dead in this operation at 2,750. At the same time as releasing these figures, ISIS claimed that 4,000 Iraqis had died during the entire operation. When ISIS released this statistic, the UN said it might actually be true because they think even their own figures are an undercount.

Because Baghdad became infuriated with the UN for releasing these statistics, they've promised not to do it again. A recent report came out, however, saying the number of ISIS dead during this entire operation is only 1,000. A couple weeks ago, ISIS said the Iraqi dead was at 5,000. This means that ISIS is killing 5 or 6 Iraqi troops for every one of their own. This casualty ratio is disastrous and unsustainable. I find it interesting how you drew a parallel to Cannae because I was thinking before I reached that part that this battle is very similar to Cannae.

ISIS will probably lose Mosul eventually, but at what cost? The battle is already becoming a propaganda tool and with even the most optimistic of reports saying its going to take until April before the city is liberated, ISIS has essentially already won even if they aren't able to hold Mosul. The Iraqis can't retreat now because that would be even more humiliating than losing Mosul in the first place and they can't stay on course or they'll suffer horrific casualties.

Even though is may serve as a propaganda boost to ISIS, the only solution is to increase US ground involvement. The Syrians and the Iraqis simply don't appear to have what it takes to defeat ISIS. The Iraqis probably can but it will cost them tens of thousands more lives and could potentially drag on for years. In Syria though, I don't even know if they can do it, we can only rely on the Kurds so much before their territorial gains become a huge threat to both Syria and Turkey, escalating the Syrian civil war right when the end comes in sight. The Syrian army themselves though has been so depleted by five years of warfare that defeating ISIS by themselves is going to be extremely difficult. I know the US and Europe is war weary but this seems to be inevitable.

Patrick Bahzad

I don't think it will be their "death knell". Sadly. The next insurgency, is already taking shape, and events in Mosul are contributing to it.

Patrick Bahzad

The battle of Aleppo was decided by several factors, some of them diplomatic (Russia-Turkey agreement of this summer, according to which RCE called back his proxies from Aleppo), others linked to PSYOPS (SAA and Russians creating an environment where civilians in East-Aleppo became more hostile to rebels), and finally others obviously related to systematic targeting of rebels infrastructure and CC posts. The catastrophic rebels counter-offensives probably depleted them of precious manpower as well. All of this laid the groundwork for the final assault which was multipronged.
The collapse may have been quick but it took a lot of work getting there. That is usually the case in attritional battles, there is a breaking point after which things change very quickly. you just need to follow up once the wall starts to crumble. We on SST have been indicating for a while that such a breaking point would be reached in Aleppo.

Patrick Bahzad

Tyler, sounds like you had a great time there ... Fond memories no doubt ;-). More seriously, I think you are right about the way this battle will be won (or lost).
An alternative way to increasing CAS, airstrikes and artillery use, would be to unleash the PMUs, and let IS Jihadis and Shia radicals slaughter each other. I wouldn't mind too much, but I'm afraid civilians inside Mosul would pay a heavy blood price too.


UNitar has a map over the damage to residential areas of Aleppo.


It's clear that the areas with the main front lines from four years of fighting are the worst affected but else Aleppo does not look like Fallujah after 2004.


The PMU may move into Syria in order to stop any cross border attacks by IS. It would be a sensible policy with the Syrian government's blessing but I doubt the US will give air support. Maybe Russia will take over?


"this battle is very similar to Cannae."
I'm having a little trouble seeing the parallel with Cannae. If you just separate out the uneven casualty figures and the resultant political fallout then maybe...

Cannae was a single battle, fought on an open plain, over in a single day, and was characterized by an unorthodox tactic (the double envelopment) by the invading force (Hannibal's army), and the results shocked the entire Roman empire.

Mosul is a slow slog, in complex urban terrain, with elements of siege warfare, using standard tactics, and unlike the Romans no one is particularly surprised that the Iraqi army is slowly getting ground down.

Patrick Bahzad


When you're quoting me to make a point, please be so kind as to use the correct quote. I didn't say, this is very similar to Cannae.
I wrote: "What we are witnessing is actually known as the "Cannae syndrome": a huge fighting force on paper, but only a small fraction doing the heavy lifting and paying the price in the friction area of Mosul's Eastern neighbourhoods".
Furthermore, don't lecture me about about ancient or modern warfare, siege or otherwise. You'll be doing yourself a favour.

Green Zone Café

I worry about those Golden Division guys. They were in a compound adjacent to mine, along with USSOF (USN and Army). Young guys, picked up the swagger and the swag of their American trainers. Had beers with some of them at a USO band party once.

Watching them walk like American guys, it would be funny if you didn't know the tragedy along with it.


There are signs that ISIS thinks it is loosing in Mosul.

Twice in the last week did ISIS try to break out west towards Tal Afar but was stopped by Hashd forces sent there by al-Abadi against the U.S. will. Obama wanted ISIS to go to Syria to attack government forces in Deir Ezzor.

Yesterdays ISIS bombing campaign in Baghdad (4 of 5 went off, 100+ dead) also points to an increasingly nervous ISIS.

The Iraqi government needs to change tactics and rotate more unites in and out of Mosul. Those need more CAS too. According to the CentCom December numbers little if any CAS is provided in Mosul.

As PB points out - The Saudis and Turks are already building the next "Sunni insurgency" in Iraq by financing and training various Anbar "tribes" to act against the government. The U.S. could certainly tell the Saudis to cease and desist but would not do that. Keeping Iraq under its control necessitates an ongoing insurgency even after ISIS. (Remember? Obama said himself he let ISIS grow to get rid of Maliki who would not allow the U.S. in ...)

Patrick Bahzad

They have been thrown into a meat grinder without the proper support to prevail in such a fight. Only thing one can hope for is that their sacrifice won't be in vain. In any case, it will be a great loss to Iraqi CT capabilities.

Patrick Bahzad


I would be very careful in drawing any conclusions from so-called IS attempts at breaking out of Mosul. Of course, there are signs they are losing, given they are losing ground, and men, obviously. That is not the key-point. They might lose 90% of their manpower and still achieve a significant victory, if they manage to get the Iraqi offensive to a standstill.
Likewise, the uptake in bomb attacks against Baghdad (there were 8 or 9 yesterday with 125 dead), as well as raids (like in Samarra earlier on), or ops cutting of government LOCs, all that isn't new and does not, as such, constitute evidence to suggest IS is about to fold in Mosul.


I did no such thing. I replied to ...said... with his quote "this battle is very similar to Cannae.", which seemed to indicate the battle itself, not the syndrome you referred to. I was confused by this so I asked him for clarification, adding the historical points to illustrate my confusion. I guess I could have worded it better.

I neglected to add his name to my reply and improperly assumed the nesting of the reply would make it obvious. Sorry about that.
I would never presume to lecture an old soldier about warfare.


Once again Obama has been given terrible advice from his national security advisors (Susan Rice, Kerry and Samantha Powers) in calling Russian strikes in Aleppo "war crimes". He now needs to conduct the same types of strikes in Mosul or the offensive there stall out.

His national security advisors never could think a move or two ahead of the bad guys. They merely reacted without considering what the other side would do ahead of time.

Built up urban areas turn ROEs protecting civilians on its head. The regular options to using fires, like maneuver, deception , etc; don't exist in urban areas. It turns out that you either destroy the enemy almost using human wave attacks, or you blast an attack axis through the enemy using fires. Soldiers pay the butchers bill or civilians do.

I believe (but do not know) that speeding things up and using overwhelming amount of fire power actually results in lower levels of civilian and military losses because it shortens the time of the battle/campaign/war.

Any old military science/history geeks know if the old Operations Research Office (ORO) or Col (ret) Dupuy of the Historical Evaluation Research Office (HERO) crunched the numbers correlating amount of fire power with over all civilian losses in urban combat?



I understood PMU is active in the Niniveh area with an explicit demand NOT to have any US air cover, to avoid 'friendly fire' incidents.
So they could go to Syria as well.



Do you credit the reporting that jihadis in Idlib City are tearing the city up and transporting anything salable toward Hatay? pl



Have seen this before, the locals coming to believe that they ARE like the men who trained them. The butcher's bill is always high in such situations. Clausewitz was once again right in writing that war itself is the best teacher. He did not mention how expensive the tuition may be. pl

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