Thursday, December 15, 2016

Iraq Control of Terrain: December 15, 2016

By Staley Smith, Michael Momayezi, and the ISW Iraq Team

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued operations to retake Mosul and its environs, consolidating gains along its five axes before breaching the city limits on November 1. The ISF continued to advance north from Qayyarah towards southwestern Mosul, but have yet to breach the city limits there; south from Kurdish-held territory towards northern Mosul, besieging Tel Kayyaf; and in the countryside southeast of Mosul, from where they entered the city itself. The Counter Terrorism Service has retaken upwards of twenty neighborhoods from ISIS in the northeast quarter over the past six weeks, but the Iraqi Army has struggled to advance in Mosul’s southeast quarter. The ISF and Peshmerga also consolidated gains around Makhmur in late October. The Peshmerga, meanwhile, advanced from Bashiqa Mountain to retake Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, on November 7. Peshmerga involvement in the operation has since largely concluded, while the ISF continues its lines of effort inside Mosul itself and at remaining ISIS-held areas, including the southern axis. ISW is thus changing the respective areas to ISF-, Peshmerga-, and joint ISF and Peshmerga-control. 

Meanwhile, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) launched operations into the western desert, west of Mosul, on October 29. The militias recaptured the Tel Afar airbase on November 16 but Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi called for the ISF, not the PMUs, to recapture the city itself. The PMUs have since expanded west beyond Tel Afar, aiming for ISIS-held Baaj, south of Sinjar, and the Syrian border. ISW is thus changing this area to a control zone where Shi’a militias are the primary security force. 

The ISF launched a minor operation to recapture the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Shirqat on November 29 in order to counter ISIS’s ability to attack recaptured areas. The ISF deployed the Baghdad-based 60th Brigade of the 17th Iraqi Army (IA) Division alongside tribal forces and an armored battalion to lead the operation, which launched south from Makhmur, making minimal gains. ISW is thus expanding the area of ISF and tribal fighter control to include recent gains from the operation.