The U.S. led ground offensive to liberate Mosul, Iraq from ISIS began today. Lima Charlie News veteran correspondents report.
IRAQ – On the morning of OCT17, the much-awaited U.S. led ground offensive to liberate Mosul, from the Islamic State (IS) began with airstrikes and a joint coalition of ground forces moving in to take the city.
The offensive comes two years after the Islamic State captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as it charged through the northern and western regions of Iraq. It was from there that the leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the city to be a caliphate or Islamic State. This began what was widely considered to be the most critical security threat to Iraq since the U.S.- led invasion of 2003. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million civilians living within Mosul.
Throughout the day, approximately 30,000 troops comprised of Iraqi government and coalition forces, including the Peshmerga, made their way towards Mosul reaching the eastern and southern regions of the city. Troops have fought through many IS infested suburbs and towns along the way, aided by U.S. air support. U.S. fighter jets have been flying relentless sorties, attacking ground targets ahead of allied forces. Prior to the ground assault, in addition to U.S. air strikes, coalition forces used artillery to soften resistance.
For the past 48 hours, these non-stop air strikes have pummeled strategic targets, taking out bridges and other key infrastructure in an effort to disrupt IS movements inside the city. Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces have encountered unconventional resistance in the form of suicide bombers, and vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). These attacks have been carried out in many of the outlying cities and their suburbs, embroiling allied forces in the fight for Mosul.
In an historic battle that finds Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers fighting side-by-side for the first time in modern history, President Massoud Barzani of Kurdistan said, “The joint operation is an example, that by working together we can solve our problems.” .
Defense Secretary Ash Carter referred to the offensive as a “decisive moment in the campaign,” one that began eight months ago with the christening of Operation Conquest (al-fatah), the first phase of what ultimately led to this morning’s assault. “We are on the first day of what we assume will be a difficult campaign that could take some time,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement, adding that early indications are that Iraqi forces have met their objectives so far, and are ahead of schedule.
Some reports have Daesh fighters at upwards of 15,000, all of which are dug into defensive positions, fiercely fighting with no sign of relenting. Kurdish Peshmerga forces reported that IS fighters armed with suicide vests (Person-Borne IEDs, or PBIEDs) ran towards them and attempted to detonate their vests. According to reports, at least one such attempt was successful. Similar reports have come from forces entering the towns of Shakoli and Badana, as well as reports from forces that have surrounded the village of Xirbat, stating that a dozen suicide vest wearing individuals are holding that village.
In an attempt to take as much ground as possible before nightfall, Kurdish and Iraqi forces continued their use of “Technicals” – the term for light pickup trucks with machine guns mounted on them – to quickly attack the IS lines and decimate their defensive positions as expediently as possible. The Iraqi forces are using similar tactics, but never stray far from their heavier armored equipment for support.
There have been unconfirmed reports that the Iraqi flag has been raised over the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi held his first large-scale speech announcing the caliphate. The flag was reportedly raised by pro-Baghdad government individuals inside the embattled city. Reports have surfaced that ISIL leaders are searching for the individual who raised the flag, and have executed those not cooperating in this search.
— Mikhail D. (@Eire_QC) October 16, 2016
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that yesterday, in northern Syria, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces, supported by the U.S. led coalition, liberated six towns and villages from ISIL, including the seminal town of Dabiq. “Freeing Dabiq over the weekend holds military and symbolic significance,” Press Secretary Cook said. “Dabiq was so important to ISIL’s propaganda machine that the terror group’s magazine was named after this town.”
The liberation of Dabiq included “close coordination” with Turkish forces, according to a statement by Secretary Ash Carter. “The group carried out unspeakable atrocities in Dabiq.” Despite these gains, however, Turkish troops are finding themselves in a contested position as to their role in the liberation of Mosul
Lima Charlie News correspondents Don Johnston (US Army) and Mario Figueroa (USMC), both served in and around Mosul during Operation Iraqi Freedom and contributed to this article.
John Sjoholm, Lima Charlie News
John Sjoholm is the Lima Charlie’s Middle East Bureau Chief, and the founder of the consulting organization Erudite Group. He is a seasoned Middle East connoisseur, with a past in the Swedish Army’s Special Forces branch and the Security Contracting industry. He studied religion and languages in Sana’a, Yemen, and Cairo, Egypt. He lived and operated extensively in the Middle East between 2005-2012 as part of regional stabilizing projects, and currently resides in Jordan.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnSjoholmLC
Lima Charlie provides global news, featuring insight & analysis by military veterans and intelligence professionals Worldwide.