As the Mosul Offensive Peters out, ISIS Poises for Its Comeback

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi marked the sixth week of the offensive to recover Mosul from the Islamic State with an astonishing comment on Monday, Nov. 27:
“We have seen the whole [ISIS] organization collapsing in terms of standing in the face of our own armed forces. The success of liberating a huge area indicates that ISIS does not have the guts now or the motivation to fight as they did before.”
While the Iraqi prime minister was talking out of his hat, ISIS released its first video since the US-led coalition launched the Mosul operation. The slickly-produced and edited tape depicted a highly competent defense infrastructure that was devised by the jihadist organization against attack. It consisted of commando forces, sniper positions, fleets of car bombs and well-fortified streets.
DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources find in this film a pointer to radically revised ISIS war tactics.
In the face of an imminent US-led offensive to throw them out of Mosul, their strategists charted an orderly retreat for most of the city’s defenders to eastern Syria or the Anbar province of western Iraq. However, when the Iraqi army kept on failing to break through into Mosul and push them out, Islamic State chiefs turned around and decided to stay put. They were now sure they could continue to rule Iraq’s second largest town.
In the light of this reassessment, many jihadist evacuees are on their way back to the city, including administration bureaucrats, who took off ahead of the coming offensive.
The Iraqi army, after gaining just one-tenth of the territory required for capturing Mosul, appears to have lost its first impetus and the will to fight on.
They are fighting without the Kurdish Peshmerga which, as we reported in previous issues, turned back from the advance on Mosul three weeks ago. The Kurds are now busy building a fortified line of defenses 60km north of their capital Irbil and 45km south of Mosul, to fend off what is turning out to be a permanent Islamic State presence and realistic threat to the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government.
The only proactive army still fighting in the vicinity of Mosul is the Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Units PMU). After taking Tal Afar airfield, this militia did not dare invade the town itself, for fear of Turkish intervention and resistance from the Turkmen and Sunni inhabitants.
The PMU boasted that its operation had cut ISIS supplies between Iraq and Syria. But there is no sign of any slowdown in the flow of jihadist supplies and fighters between their two bastions.
Plans for an offensive to capture the Islamic State’s Syrian bastion at Raqqa have also petered out – this one, unlike Mosul, before it even began. Most of the Syrian rebel groups which had promised to take part have made themselves scarce. The Kurdish YPG, the supposed spearhead is, like the Iraqi Peshmerga, fully occupied with building defensive fortifications against another foe, the Turkish force which invaded northern Syria and continues to pose a menace.
Jihadist leaders, having survived all threats to forcibly displace them from their Iraqi and Syrian strongholds, feel safe enough to proceed with their next campaign of terror against Western and Russian targets, more about which in a separate article.

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