July 26, 2016

The Big Battle That Will Determine ISIS's Fate And Iraq's Future Is Hindered By Politicized Planning In D.C., Infighting In Iraq, And Lack of Humanitarian Aid

An excerpt from, "Iraqis pack up a lifetime as they flee ISIS-held Mosul in the dark of night" By Ben Wedeman and Waffa Munayyer, CNN, July 25, 2016:
"I came because of the tyranny of Daesh," he says, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. "I came because of the lack of food and water, because of the lack of security. ISIS are gangs of killers and thieves. The most basic necessities of life no longer exist. There is no electricity, no water, no connection with the outside world."

The threat of execution by ISIS, for offenses large and small, looms over everyone, he said. "They kill you if you don't fast. They kill you if you don't pray. They kill women if they show their faces. They have no other way of doing things than killing. The only punishment is killing: no prison, no fines, just killing, killing and killing."

The number of people fleeing Mosul and surrounding towns and villages has been rising steadily in recent weeks, as Iraqi government and Kurdish forces slowly retake territory around the city. At the same time the U.S.-led coalition is ratcheting up pressure, its planes targeting ISIS. The U.S. also announced it is sending more than 500 additional troops to support the battle to liberate Mosul.
An excerpt from, "With liberation of Mosul from Isis in sight, US envoy urges plan for refugees" By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, July 21, 2016:
The liberation of the Islamic State-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul is now in sight and preparations are ahead of schedule, but parallel plans for refugees and stabilization of the city must keep pace with the military progress, Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition against Isis, said on Thursday.

Speaking at a meeting of 30 defence and foreign ministers in Washington, including the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, McGurk said: “The liberation of Mosul is now in sight and an achievable goal.”

It is widely expected the assault will start in November, although no public timeline is being given by the coalition.
An excerpt from, "Troops fear Obama rushing Mosul offensive to influence election" By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times, July 24, 2016: 
Some U.S. officers in Baghdad believe the Obama administration is rushing plans for a Mosul offensive so it takes place before the November presidential election, a retired general says.

“There is tremendous concern that Washington is going to press for a Mosul operation to commence before the November election,” Mr. Barbero told The Washington Times. “The concern is, will the conditions be set on the ground by then, and I don’t think so.”
An excerpt from, "Mosul: suspicion and hostility cloud fight to recapture Iraqi city from Isis" By Martin Chulov, Iraq, May 11, 2016:
On both sides, there is a belief that what happens on the road to Mosul will not only define the course of the war but also shape the future of Iraq. And, despite the high stakes, planning for how to take things from here is increasingly clouded by suspicion and enmity.

Two years after the Isis onslaught, the country remains crippled by ethnic and sectarian strife and political torpor, which have withered state control and pitched the Iraqi army in a power struggle with militias and the Kurds before it even faces off with Isis. The result has been a stalemate in the battle that matters most, with Iraq deeply wary that the largely autonomous Kurdish north will use its involvement to formalise a divorce from Baghdad – and the Kurds just as sceptical that Iraq’s military is up for the fight.
An excerpt from, "Iraq Liberates Fallujah From ISIS. Now the Hard Part Begins" By Jared Malsin, Time, June 27, 2016:
“If we struggled to cope with Fallujah, then God help us with Mosul,” says Karl Schembri, a spokesperson in Baghdad for the Norwegian Refugee Council, a leading aid group. “Right now it’s just unthinkable. Right now with the current resources that all agencies have—it’s not just us, and the U.N. itself—nobody in his right mind can say that we are prepared for Mosul.”

But in Mosul the political puzzle is even more complicated, with the Iraqi national army, U.S. military and pro-Shiite militias all expected to play different roles. Adding yet another layer of complexity, Mosul is flanked on three sides by Kurdish forces who do not answer to the central government in Baghdad. Before the battle for Mosul can begin in earnest, the government must reach an understanding with the Kurdish regional government based in the city of northern Erbil. The two leaderships have yet to decide the exact role Kurdish forces will play in the battle, including how close they will get to the center of the majority Arab city. Because Mosul lies close to Kurdish-controlled land, any negotiations over the future of the city will trigger delicate questions of Kurdish aspirations for greater autonomy or even full independence.