Monday, December 5, 2016

The Campaign for Mosul: November 29 - December 5, 2016

By Emily Anagnostos and the ISW Iraq Team

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) made limited gains in Mosul from November 28 to December 5, but moved additional assets from Baghdad into the region in order to reinforce current lines of effort in Mosul and improve security in southern Ninewa. 

The ISF opened a new line of effort away from Mosul on November 29 to recapture the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Shirqat. ISIS has frequently attacked Shirqat, on the western bank, by crossing the Tigris River from its position on the eastern bank. The ISF launched the operation from Hajj Ali and is working its way south along the river. The ISF deployed the Baghdad-based 60th Brigade of the 17th Iraqi Army (IA) Division in order to lead the operation alongside tribal forces and an armored battalion. If the ISF can extend its holdings along the eastern bank, it will increase security for recaptured cities on the western bank, including Shirqat and Qayyarah, reduce ISIS’s ability to attack recaptured terrain, and set up the ISF to launch future operations in the Zab region, a Sunni insurgent stronghold, at the confluence of the Little Zab and Tigris Rivers. 

The ISF set conditions for the 16th IA Division to enter Mosul’s northeastern city limits alongside the embattled Counter Terrorism Service (CTS). The division connected ISF-held terrain north of the city with ISF-terrain on the eastern axis, effectively closing in ISIS on the eastern side, on December 3. The 16th Division will likely aim to enter the city limits over the coming week in order to support operations which have stalled due to fierce ISIS resistance and remaining civilian populations. The ISF deployed a second unit from Baghdad, the 43rd Brigade of the 11th IA Division, on December 1, to eastern Mosul to reinforce efforts in the eastern neighborhoods. The CTS, meanwhile, has made limited advances in Mosul’s northern neighborhoods.

The deployment of Baghdad-based units north could suggest that security in the capital is stable enough to deploy these forces north. The deployment of the 60th and 43rd Brigades north follows the deployment of the entire 1st Rapid Intervention Division out of the capital, first into western Anbar and later to Mosul, in late October. ISIS continues to launch attacks in Baghdad, but not to the same scale as it has in previous weeks. The ISF will still need to be aware that ISIS will try to take advantage of reduced forces in Baghdad in order to use carry out attacks. ISIS may increase its the attacks in Baghdad to undermine the legitimacy of the Iraqi Government, as it did in July when a deadly Vehicle-Borne IED (VBIED) led to the resignations of senior security officials including the interior minister.