The Battle of Mosul
The battle to take Mosul from DAESH has been underway for a about a week now. Mosul has been surrounded and forces have been gaining ground and retaking villages surrounding Mosul, with the predominantly Christian village of Qaraqosh being one of the first villages to be liberated. Christian residents are celebrating, putting crosses back on their churches, and looking to rebuild their lives.
Leading the assault are 18,000 Iraqi forces, 10,000 Kurdish Peshmerga, and a few thousand Iraqi Federal Police, with Shia militias and Turkish troops ready to join.
There are accounts of DAESH using civilians as human shields and executing those who have tried to rise up against them. Dozens of DAESH fighters have been killed over recent days. Still, DAESH is fighting back fiercely and while retreating from a position south of Mosul, set a sulfur plant alight, causing respiratory injuries to hundreds.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
The United Nations and the International Red Cross originally predicted Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) would number around 1M, currently only 4,000 or so have been able to flee Mosul. That low number makes caring for them easier, but it means that there are large numbers of civilians still unable to flee.
An Internally Displaced person is an individual who is forced to flee their home, usually because of armed conflict, but stays within their country’s borders. The difference between a refugee and an IDP is that a refugee crosses a border. It’s a crucial difference because refugees are afforded special status within international law that Internally Displaced Persons are not.
Despite a force of approximately 5,000 fighters located within Mosul, DAESH launched an audacious counterattack against the Kurdish controlled city of Kirkuk some 100 miles from Mosul. Kirkuk is claimed both by the Kurds and by the Iraqi government, although it has been fully under Kurdish control since 2014. In Kirkuk, DAESH suicide bombers and gunmen attacked government buildings, three police stations, and a power plant in the north of the city currently under construction by Iran. Some reports indicate that around 70 DAESH fighters infiltrated the city disguised as IDPs, other reports state that the attacks were carried out by sleeper cells.
DAESH is offering fierce resistance. They have deployed numerous car/truck bombs, mortar attacks, IEDs, and sniper teams. They are still holding off forces from advancing into Mosul proper. Kuridish and Iraqi forces are quickly taking surrounding villages and making preparations to enter and clear the city.
The first American casualty in the Battle for Mosul has occurred on Thursday, October 20. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, who belonged to an explosive ordinance disposal unit and was serving with Iraqi troops as an advisor. He sustained fatal wounds as a result of a roadside IED that struck the armored vehicle he was in with members of Iraq’s Special Forces. More than 100 American personnel are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the offensive to retake Mosul from DAESH.
DAESH’s attack on Kirkuk has may caused some unintended consequences that will be beneficial to rebuilding the Nineveh province in the long run. There are three large stakeholders in Northern Iraq, Iran, Kurds, and Iraq. These three groups, who have fought viciously against each other, are now even further united in their battle against Sunni Islamic terrorists. Although these three groups have historically been in conflict, they have been working together fighting Sunni terrorists like DAESH and Al Qaeda. DAESH’s attack on Iranian, Kurdish, and Iraqi interests in Kirkuk could be the motivation needed by these three groups to unite in rebuilding a post-war northern Iraq.