Battle of Mosul (2016–17)

For other uses, see Battle of Mosul.
Battle of Mosul (2016–17)
Part of the Iraqi Civil War and
the American-led intervention in Iraq
Battle of Mosul (2016–2017).svg
A cartographic depiction of the current situation in Mosul, as of January 23, 2017.      Iraqi Government control      ISIL control      Peshmerga control
Date 16 October 2016 – present
(3 months, 1 week and 1 day)
Location Iraq
Status Ongoing
Territorial
changes
As of 18 January, east Mosul has been fully recaptured by the ISF. [9] [10] [11] [12]
Belligerents

Iraq Iraq
Iraqi Kurdistan Iraqi Kurdistan
(until November 2016)
Supported by:

  Iran [6]
Hezbollah [7]


Iraqi Ba'ath Party Loyalists [8]
  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
Commanders and leaders

Haidar al-Abadi
(Prime Minister of Iraq)
Iraq Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati al-Kenan
(Joint Military Command, ICTS)
Iraq Maj. Gen. Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri
( ISF commander of the operation)
Iraq Maj. Gen. Fadhil Jalil al-Barwari
(ISOF commander)
Popular Mobilization Forces (Iraq) logo vector.svg Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis [13]
(Head of the PMF)
Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani
(President of Iraqi Kurdistan)
United States Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend
( CJTF-OIR commander)
Muhammad Kawarithmi [7]
(Hezbollah commander of Iraqi operations)


Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri [8]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
(Leader of ISIL)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Zeyad Kharoufa  [14]
(ISIL Minister of Media)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Izzam  [15]
(ISIL Oil Minister)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Omran Abu Mariam [16]
(ISIL War Council leader)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Marwan Hamid Salih al-Hayali  [17]
(Local wali of ISIL)

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu As’ad al-Iraqi [18]
(ISIL Emir of Tal Afar)

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Aziz Ali  [19]
(Senior commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Hudhaifa  (Prominent ISIL leader)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Aymam al-Mosuli  [20]
(Commander of the special security forces)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Faruq  [21]
(Commander of Bashiqa)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Yakoub  [22]
(Operations official)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Hamza al-Ansari  [23]
(Senior leader)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Mahmoud Shukri al-Nuaimi  [24]
(a.k.a. Sheikh Faris; Senior commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Falah al-Rashidi  [25]
(ISIL vehicle suicide bomb leader)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Turq 
(ISIL financial facilitator)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Abdulrahman  [26]
(ISIL executioner)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Dur al-Tunsi [27]
(Military commander; deserted)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Bilal al-Shawash [27]
(Military commander; deserted)
Units involved
See Order of Battle See Order of Battle
Strength

Iraq 54,000–60,000 ISF troops [28] [29]
14,000 paramilitary troops [28]
Iraqi Kurdistan 40,000 Peshmerga troops [28]
Total: 108,500–114,000 fighters [30]

Support:
Hundreds of CJTF–OIR personnel
4,500–12,000 militants
(1,000 foreigners) [31] [32] [33]
Casualties and losses

Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan 1,000–2,000 killed (per UN) [34] [35]
United States 1 killed [36]

Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan 6,500 killed,
800+ vehicles destroyed and 21 drones downed
(ISIL claim) [37] [38]
2,000+ killed or wounded
(U.S. claim) [39]
4,000 killed
(Iraqi claim) [40]
1,000+ civilians killed [34]
160,260 civilians displaced [41] [42]

The Battle of Mosul ( Arabic: معركة الموصل‎‎; Central Kurdish: شەڕی مووسڵ‎) is a joint offensive by Iraqi government forces with allied militias, Iraqi Kurdistan, and international forces to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). [43] [44] [45] The offensive, dubbed Operation "We Are Coming, Nineveh" (قادمون يا نينوى; Qadimun Ya Naynawa), [46] [47] began on 16 October 2016, with forces besieging ISIL-controlled areas in the Nineveh Governorate surrounding Mosul. [48] [49] [50] The battle for Mosul is considered key in the military intervention against ISIL, which seized the city in June 2014. [51] Outnumbering ISIL forces 10 to 1, it is the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [52]

The operation follows the Mosul offensives in 2015 and 2016. The offensive began with Iraqi troops and Peshmerga fighters engaging ISIL on three fronts outside Mosul, going from village to village in the surrounding area. More than 120 towns and villages were liberated from ISIL control in the first two weeks of fighting. At dawn on 1 November, Iraqi Special Operations Forces entered the city on the eastern front. [53] Meeting with fierce fighting, the Iraqi advance into the city was slowed by elaborate defenses – including road blocks, booby traps, suicide bombers and snipers – and by the presence of civilians. [54]

The Battle of Mosul is concurrent with the Battle of al-Bab by the Turkish-led FSA forces, and the Raqqa offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on ISIL's capital city and stronghold in Syria. [55]

Background

Map of the territorial control during the 2016 Mosul offensive, as of August 2016

General background

Mosul is Iraq's second most populous city. It fell to 800 ISIL militants in June 2014, because of the largely Sunni population's deep distrust of the primarily Shia Iraqi government and its corrupt armed forces. [31] [56] It was in the Great Mosque in Mosul that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the beginning of ISIL's self-proclaimed "caliphate" which spans Iraq and Syria. [56] The original population of 2.5 million has fallen to approximately 1.5 million after two years of ISIL rule. The city was once extremely diverse, with ethnic minorities including Armenians, Yazidis, Assyrian, Turkmen, and Shabak people, all of whom have suffered and continue to suffer considerably under the (majority Sunni Arab) Islamic State. [57] Mosul remains the last stronghold of ISIL in Iraq, [58] and the anticipated offensive to reclaim it was hyped as the "mother of all battles". [59] [60] [61] [62]

Preparations for the battle

In the weeks leading up to the ground offensive, the US-led CJTF - OIR coalition bombed ISIL targets, and the Iraqi Army made gradual advances on the city. [52] Royal Air Force's Reaper drones, Typhoons, and Tornados targeted " rocket launchers, ammunition stockpiles, artillery pieces and mortar positions" in the 72 hours before the ground assault began. [63] Leaflets dropped on the city by the Iraqi army advised young male residents to "rise up" against ISIL when the battle began. [58] To prepare defenses against the assault, ISIL operatives dug 4 m2 holes around the city, which they planned to fill with burning oil to reduce visibility [52] and slow advances. [29] They also built hundreds of elaborate tunnels in the villages surrounding Mosul, rigged with explosives and booby-traps, and laid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines along the roads. [64] There was considerable concern that ISIL may employ chemical weapons against soldiers and civilians. [65]

According to Iraqi sources, the assault towards Mosul was being waged from Al-Khazer axis (east of Mosul), Mosul Dam (northern axis), Baashiqa axis (eastern axis), Al-Qayyarah axis (southern axis), and Talul el-Baj- Al-Khadr axis (southwestern axis). [66]

Forces involved in the offensive

U.S. Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, at Qayyarah Airfield West, 22 September 2016

About 3,000–5,000 ISIL fighters were estimated to be in Mosul city, according to the United States Department of Defense. [67] Other estimates ranged as low as 2,000 and high as 12,000 ISIL fighters. [31] [68] Mosul Eye estimated approximately 8,000–9,000 fighters loyal to ISIL, with "[h]alf of them... highly trained, and the rest... either teenagers or not well trained. About ten percent of the fighters are foreign (Arabs and non-Arabs). The rest are Iraqis. Most are from Nineveh’s townships and districts." [69]

The Iraqi-led coalition was initially estimated by CNN to have 94,000 members, [70] but this number was later revised upward to 108,500; [30] 54,000 to 60,000 Iraqi security forces (ISF) soldiers, 16,000 Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters, and 40,000 Peshmerga (including approximately 200 Iranian Kurdish female fighters from PAK) [71] are deployed in the battle. [28] [29]

Among the PMF units, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units composed of Assyrians are among the paramilitary forces in the Iraqi coalition. [72] [73] Shia militias including several brigades of the paramilitary organization Hashd al-Shaabi, the Peace Companies, Kata'ib Hezbollah, the League of the Righteous, the Badr Organization, Saraya Ashura, Saraya Khorasani, Kata'ib al-Imam Ali, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Turkmen Brigades also took part. [74] [75] The Ezidi community of the Sinjar region contributes Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) and Êzîdxan Women's Units (YJÊ), [76] which are operating in concert with Sunni Arab Shammar tribal militias and People's Defence Forces (HPG) of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). [77]

Other Assyrian forces involved in the planned offensive includes the NPF and Dwekh Nawsha who both are allied alongside Kurdish Peshmerga. [78] [79]

Peshmerga soldiers prepare to conduct a combined arms live-fire exercise with an Italian instructor near Erbil, on 12 October 2016.

An international coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States, is supporting Iraq's war against ISIL, providing logistical and air support, intelligence, and advice. [80] The international coalition forces are headquartered 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of Mosul at Qayyarah Airfield West (or Q-West) in Qayyarah, which was reclaimed from ISIL in June. [81] About 560 U.S. troops from the 101st Airborne Division were deployed to Q-West for the battle, including command and control elements, a security detachment, an airfield operations team, and logistics and communications specialists. [82] The U.S. deployed HIMARS rocket launchers and M777 howitzers, manned by the 101st's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the Golf Company, 526th Brigade Support Battalion. The French army deployed four CAESAR howitzers and 150 to 200 soldiers at Qayyarah, with 600 more French troops announced at the end of September. [83] An additional 150 French soldiers are in Erbil, east of Mosul, training Peshmerga. [75] The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, with a squadron of 24 Rafale M jets, was deployed from Toulon to the Syrian coast to support the operation against ISIL through airstrikes and reconnaissance missions; 12 other Rafale jets are operating out of French Air Force bases in Jordan and the UAE. [84] [85] 80 Australian special forces soldiers and 210 CANSOFCOM soldiers were also deployed to assist the Peshmerga. In addition, the Canadian Forces 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment was also reported to be in the area, working to intercept and relay ISIL communications, while a Role 2 Canadian Army field hospital with 60 personnel has been set up to treat Kurdish casualties. [86] [87]

An Iraqi soldier during a course on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training at Camp Taji. Coalition forces have expressed fears ISIL may use chemical weapons during the Battle of Mosul.

The Ba'ath loyalists group, known to be led by Saddam Hussein's former vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, issued a statement before the start of operations calling for the people of the city to start an uprising against ISIL and announced that they will fight the "terrorist organization." [88] [89]