(ISW) On December 29 ISF (Iraqi security forces) announced the “second phase” of operations in Mosul’s city limits, which is now in its second month, after operations paused for a week from December 21 to 28 to allow ISF units to regroup and remobilize. Since December 29, ISF has recaptured five major neighbourhoods alongside Mosul’s main east-west highway and has pushed further towards the eastern bank of the Tigris River. These advances inward have put the Mosul Airport and adjacent military base in range of ISF artillery.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Fresh forces consisting of three brigades of Federal Police and units from the Emergency Response Division-an elite unit in the Ministry of Interior-redeployed from the south and have began operating in the southeast alongside units from the 9th Iraqi Army Armoured Division. The introduction of the Federal Police into Mosul is a risk if the units are especially compromised by or comprised of pro-Iranian militias, which has historically resulted in sectarian violence, although the Coalition has previously cooperated with at least one of the three brigades in Ramadi. These reinforcements have bolstered Iraqi Army efforts to retake several southeast neighbourhoods from December 29 to January 3 and relieved the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which has shouldered the bulk of the urban warfare
The Coalition announced on December 24 that it would embed at a lower-level in the ISF, including alongside formations, such as the Federal Police. U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter announced in July, after ISF retook the Qayyarah Airbase, that he would start embedding U.S. advisors at brigade- and battalion- levels. These are now particularly focused on supporting the northern axis, where Iraqi Army units have not yet breached the city, though the advisors are also operating alongside the CTS and other ISF units. ISF may also begin relying on increased Coalition airstrikes to counter ISIS targets, rather than door-to-door operations; this raises the risk of civilian casualties but can stave off further attrition.
ISIS launched a series of spectacular attacks from December 31 to January 2 in the shrine cities Najaf and Samarra and in Baghdad in response to the renewed push. ISIS will try to increase the pressure on provinces and political leaders to draw back forward deployed ISF units from Mosul operations, reducing reinforcements. It has also attempted to sever the ISF’s supply routes by attacking the Baghdad-Mosul highway around Shirqat District on January 2, though Iraqi forces later reopened the road. ISIS’s ability to continue attacks in the shrine cities and capital and to create a protracted battle in Mosul will put increasing pressure on an already vulnerable Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who had pledged that the operation would be over before 2017 but now states it will take another three months.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR MOSUL: DECEMBER 20, 2016 - JANUARY 3, 2017