The US-Led Coalition’s Advance on Mosul Lags Way behind Schedule
The progress made by the US-led Iraqi-Kurdish forces in their three-week advance on ISIS-held Mosul was commended Sunday night, Nov. 6 by US special presidential envoy Brett McGurk as “very much on track.”
However, in contrast to the optimistic tone of most reporting on the offensive, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources have found it is not meeting the original plan. It is clear that the Iraqi army has been forced to slow down progress in recent days.
Islamic State resistance is such that no coalition forces have yet broken through into the targeted city.
The US envoy admitted as much when he said: “ISIS, as expected, is putting up a fierce fight and I expect this will take some time to conclude.”
This is the situation on the different fronts:.
Monday, Nov. 7, Iraq’s Federal Counter-Terrorism Services’ special forces began to penetrate the industrial districts of Kukjali. The Iraqi army was also fighting in the district of Gogjali, some 20km east of Mosul. To the south, the Iraqi army’s 9th division entered Judaydat al Mufti, a posh residential area built outside the town during the Saddam Hussein era.
Another Federal Counter-terrorism service unit drove towards the Baghdad-Mosul highway on the west bank of the Tigris River and reached a point 15km from the city.
Their reverses were formidable.
A unit of the Iraqi Army’s 15th Division remains bogged down clearing out enemy pockets some 30km south of Mosul’s international airport; and a 9th Division unit is halted 25km short of southeastern Mosul. Iraqi troops were also forced to retreat from the neighborhood of Al-Karamah after ISlS fighters used a network of tunnels to surround them.
On many fronts, Iraqi forces are being hit by ISIS fighters jumping out from behind buildings to fire rocket-propelled grenades at advancing columns, or attacking from behind human shields. Vehicles rigged as car bombs explode against advancing Iraqi forces from the east.
However, the main road to Mosul from Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish republic, was cleared in record time by the Iraqi army’s 9th division and Counter-Terror troops, bringing them to the eastern edges of the targeted city.
Bashiqa, 15km east of Mosul is a special case. After capturing parts of this town, the Iraqi army’s advance was stalled by ISIS resistance and it had to call on the Kurdish Peshmerga to join the battle. The Kurds, who surrounded the city for weeks, are currently engaged in heavy exchanges with ISIS fighters after gaining more ground.
The city, which has not yet fallen, is important both as the last ISIS bastion in KRG territory and for its multicultural, multi-ethnic population of Christians, Yazidis, Sunni Arabs and others.
The next big target of the coalition offensive is the town of Hammam al-Alil, some 25 kilometers south of Mosul.
There, ISIS is reported to have concentrated its most hardened and brutal fighters, trapping tens of thousands of people there. Monday, Nov. 7, Iraqi defense officials reported the discovery of a mass-grave of some 100 beheaded bodies in the grounds of the Agricultural Faculty of the local college.
By the end of this week, the Iraqi army and CTU had reached a line that meandered between 15km and-30km from Mosul on the different fronts.