Official US optimism was absent from the latest Pentagon spokesman’s evaluation of the state of the offensive to wrest Mosul from ISIS as it entered its second week. Late Monday, Oct. 24, Capt. Jeff Davis said that, while Iraqi and Kurdish forces were making “solid progress,” they are now meeting “heavy resistance,” outside Mosul and predicted that “its going to get heavier” as allied forces push into the city.
Capt. Davis also admitted that the 80 or so villages and small towns retaken by Kurdish and Iraqi forces in the first week of the campaign were largely uninhabited.
US soldiers were Monday ordered to use gas masks after ISIS poured oil on a sulfur mine 70km south of Mosul that continues to burn near the US and Iraqi military center at Qayyarah.
One obstacle after another – often unforeseen – is slowing the coalition’s advance on Mosul – as debkafile was the first publication to reveal last week. It is becoming obvious that ISIS is following a plan to circle around Mosul in a wide radius and pouncing on important spots for diversionary attacks:
Last week, they overran Kirkuk; this week, Sinjar and Rutba.
The capture of Sinjar in northern Iraq near the Syrian border was the Islamists’ second victory against the Kurdish Peshmerga. Its fall saved ISIS’ main supply route from Iraq to its Syrian stronghold in Raqqa from being cut off. For the Kurdish Peshmerga, it was disastrous. Sinjar was the main assembly center for Syrian Kurdish fighters coming in to aid their brothers in the fight for Mosul. A large concentration of the outlawed Turkish Kurdish PKK was also present.
The fighting in Kirkuk only died down Sunday after three days, leaving at least 100 Iraqi and Kurdish fighters dead.
ISIS captured the Anbar desert town of Rutba, 700km southwest of Mosul, by a three-pronged strike.
Rutba commands the Baghdad-Amman highway. It is also situated near the Ayn al-Asad Air Base, the largest US military facility in Iraq, which hosts US air and special operations units.
Iraqi government forces including Emergency Regiments, border guard units and Sunni tribal militias which command this part of western Iraq, were deployed to guard this strategic town. However, they were no match for ISIS. The Mayor of Rutba, Imad al-Dulaimi’s desperate appeal to Baghdad for backup to save the town from ISIS’ grasp, fell on deaf ears. Large numbers of Iraqi, Kurdish and local Sunni fighters fell in battle there.
It has become apparent from these events that the planners of the Mosul operation, Haidar al-Abadi’s generals and the American officers fighting with them did not take into account that ISIS would mount major attacks in unexpected places far and near to throw the coalition assault on Mosul off balance.
Next door, the Jordanian army went on war preparedness as its generals looked nervously at the fighting drawing near to the kingdom and took note that the main highway linking Amman to Baghdad had been cut off.