The US-led coalition offensive for liberating Mosul from ISIS suffered two ominous downturns on its 10th day
Friday, Oct. 28, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. One: Pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites stand ready to assume a lead role, sparking the threat of sectarian violence in the mainly Sunni city; and, two, the Islamic State is poised to launch surface missiles with a range of 500km against Baghdad, as well as Jordan and Israel.
Friday, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups the Bader Brigades and the Population Mobilization Force announced that their advance toward the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, about 55 km west of Mosul, was imminent.
These militias are fighting under the command of the Iranian Al Qods chief, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who takes his orders from Tehran.
The capture of Tal Afar – a mix of Sunni and Shiite ethnic Turkmen until the Islamic State’s takeover two years ago – would cut off ISIS-held Mosul from Syria.
Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor, and the Kurds are seriously alarmed by the Shiite groups’ initiative.
The Shiites, who are not part of the main coalition fighting body preparing to storm Mosul, are about to strike ISIS from the north.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that coalition commanders erred by not taking Tal Afar in the early stage of the Mosul offensive and so blocking ISIS supply lines.
The offensive was hobbled two days day earlier by the Kurdish decision to withdraw Peshmerga fighters from the operation to retake Mosul. President Masoud Barzani of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government stated Wednesday, Oct. 26, that his army had ended its role in the warfare, after cleansing dozens of mostly uninhabited villages on the road to Mosul, and did not intend to enter the city at this time.
This decision by the KRG in Irbil was not published.
Since the Kurds and the Shiite militias are out of it, who is left to finish the job and go into Mosul?
The mission which started out as a grand coalition enterprise has been left now to US forces and the Iraqi army.
However, Iraq’s elite 9th Golden Division and its federal anti-terror police unit have not made much headway in their advance against ISIS forces east of Mosul. Their commanders now warn the government in Baghdad that they can’t go any further without reinforcements.
But there are no Iraqi military reserves to draw on, without stripping any more main Iraqi towns of their defenses and laying them open to Islamists assaults, like those ISIS staged successfully last week on the oil city of Kirkuk, the Kurdish town of Sinjar and Rutba near the Jordanian border.
The long and short of it is that the Mosul offensive has virtually ground to a halt.
ISIS meanwhile is compounding its atrocities and gearing up for escalation.
1. The UN Human Rights agency reported Friday that, since the Mosul offensive began on Oct. 17, Islamic State forces in Iraq have abducted tens of thousands of men, women and children from areas around Mosul and are using them as “human shields” in the city as Iraqi government troops advance.
They shot dead at least 232 people on Wednesday, including 190 former Iraqi troops and 42 civilians when they refused to obey their orders.
2. ISIS has plans to use chemical weapons against the coalition forces advancing any further towards Mosul.
3. Following their raids on key Iraqi cities, the Islamist State is preparing to launch surface missiles against Baghdad.
4. ISIS may not confine its missile attacks to targets in Iraq. Our military sources report that the jihadists have laid hands on Syrian and Iraqi ground-to-ground missiles with a range of 500km and are holding them ready for attacks on Iraq’s neighbors, which could be Jordan. Israel too is in their sights.