For the Mosul Offensive, the US again Dumps the Kurds

The top US military officer in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, had finally managed to persuade Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that it was time to prepare for a spring assault to defeat ISIS at Mosul – only to discover that Washington had thrown the plan of attack into disarray.
The attack on Mosul was to have been spearheaded jointly by the Iraqi Special Republican Guard (SRG) (aka the “Golden Division”), its 14 battalions and about 15,000 troops, and some 20,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
And, indeed, Iraqi SRG troops started deploying this week to a northern Iraqi base, where American officers set up logistical infrastructure for the attack, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report.
But then, a new order from the Pentagon heralded an Obama administration change of plan: The Kurds were to be excluded from the attacking force.
This was the explanation: Although Kurdish fighters had excelled in combat against ISIS, their skills were applied only on battlefields close to home and declined in remote arenas. US military experts, having made this judgment from their performance in Syria and Iraq, had concluded that the Kurdish Peshmerga could not be trusted to exercise their best abilities in a large-scale battle like the Mosul operation.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources prefer a different explanation.
The Obama administration had its arm twisted by Tehran and Baghdad to re-integrate pro-Iranian Shiite militias, mainly Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, or the Popular Mobilization Forces, and the Badar brigade, in the frontline forces versus ISIS.
These militias, which are under direct Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps command, took part in the major battles for Tikrit and Baiji, but were dropped from the Ramadi operation (due to complaints by local Sunni citizens about their abusive conduct).
But in the run-up to the Mosul operation, the US command in Baghdad was faced with Iranian-backed militia chiefs clamoring to be attached to the assault force. Washington gave in and switched the plan of attack: the Kurds were dropped and Tehran’s Iraqi Shiite proxies awarded a lead-role in the pivotal operation for evicting ISIS from its de facto capital in Iraq
This fit the US-Iranian book on another score: A demonstration of high prowess in this important battle would have enhanced the Kurds’ military and political clout and given them the self-assurance to reach for an independent state.
The caliphate’s proclaimed capital is also its safe haven and supplier of resources, including revenue.
Military circles in the KRG capital point out that Peshmerga forces control the northern, eastern and western flanks around the town. They need no more than a week’s notice to launch a full-scale operation for loosening ISIS’s grip on the city. The KRG also claims it has a deal with the Iraqi government for the use of Makhmur as a launching pad for taking Mosul. Iraqi brigades would be incorporated in their assault.
Last week, Iraqi Kurdish forces with support from local tribal Arabs were already on the move. They liberated two strategic points, Kudu and Karmudi, to clear the road for the coming Mosul offensive.
In view of the Kurdish account of their forward positions against Mosul, it is hard to see how Washington can proceed with its planned offensive without Peshmerga participation.
This uncertainty was reflected in the appearance Tuesday, Feb. 9, of top Pentagon official Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said a US-led offensive to wrest control of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State won’t be mounted this year because the situation in parts of Iraq were too unstable.

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