6 years, 10 months ago
In Looming Battle for Mosul we discussed Mosul as the last major stronghold of al Qaeda (after their being routed from Anbar and Baghdad) and the Iraqi Security Forces plans to retake Mosul. The reports were short on details, but we observed that:
… the battle would fare better if al Qaeda and the remaining Ba’athists are rendered unable to flee and relocate prior to this battle, as happened at the onset of the “surge” and security plan for Baghdad when the U.S. announced the plan. Checkpoints should already be operational, and the ISF should make significant use of barricades, roadblocks, gated communities and other elements of counterinsurgency that have proven valuable in the battles for Fallujah and Baghdad.
From Azzaman, we learn that al Qaeda may have already fled.
U.S. and Iraqi troops are carrying out military operations in heavily populated areas of the northern city of Mosul to flush out insurgents.
And in their bid they are separating and isolating residential quarters with security barriers and walls making movement rather difficult.
Some quarters like Yarmouk, Thawar and Siha are completed isolated.
The city, Iraq’s second largest with nearly three million people, has turned into a major stronghold for the Iraqi branch of Qaeda and anti-U.S. rebels.
But provincial officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the Qaeda and other groups opposing U.S. occupation have either fled or merged with the population.
With no guarantees given that the troops would not repeat the mistake committed in other rebel cities in the subjugation of which the U.S. employed warplanes and heavy artillery, tens of thousands of residents are fleeing to safer areas.
Regarding this alleged ‘mistake’ to which Azzaman refers regarding warplanes and heavy artillery, this report may be referring to the overall increased use of air power the last year, but also obviously refers most recently to the heavy use of air power in Arab Jabour.
The U.S. military says the massive airstrike it launched on Thursday was a success. The attack was directed against suspected al-Qaida in Iraq weapons depots outside of Baghdad. VOA’s Deborah Block has details from the Iraqi capital.
Military officials say U.S. bombers and fighter jets dropped a total of 48 bombs on 47 targets used by insurgents to store weapons. The airstrike was one of the largest in the war. Officials say the attack destroyed what they describe an an insurgent “defensive belt” around Baghdad. The attack in Arab Jabour, just south of Baghdad, is part of a large-scale operation launched this week against al-Qaida in Iraq by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Air power has become extremely precise in Operation Iraqi Freedom, even on urban terrain. If residents are fleeing, it is more than likely due to the desire to avoid conflict, and this last statement by Azzaman is probably just propaganda. But the balance of the report is interesting in that the same affects resulted from preparations to launch operations as with the initial phases of the surge, i.e., the enemy flees.
All is not lost, however. The installation of gated communities is a positive development, as long as the troop commitment can leverage them to the advantage of the coalition. In other words, the troops necessary to take, hold and rebuild must be necessary, and as long as this precondition obtains, al Qaeda has lost one of its last holdouts. They might congregate in another area, but troop commitment can accomplish the same thing there. Time will tell how many al Qaeda remain in Mosul and how serious the kinetic operations become to root them out of the city.