Tac­tics of bat­tle for Iraq’s Mo­sul

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAGH­DAD: Iraqi se­cu­rity forces have launched a fi­nal push to re­take Mo­sul from the Is­lamic State group, which seized the coun­try’s sec­ond city more than two years ago. Here are some of the tac­tics that will likely be em­ployed by Iraqi se­cu­rity forces, and those IS may use against them:

En­cir­clement then as­sault

Iraqi forces will fight their way to Mo­sul and then seek to en­cir­cle the city be­fore launch­ing an at­tack in­side it-tac­tics they have used in op­er­a­tions to re­take other IS-held cities in­clud­ing Ramadi and Tikrit. The even­tual as­sault into Mo­sul will likely be led by Iraq’s elite counter-ter­ror­ism ser­vice, which has spear­headed most op­er­a­tions against the ji­hadists. To reach Mo­sul, Iraqi forces will have to ad­vance through sev­eral dozen kilo­me­ters of IS-held ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple vil­lages.

The US-led anti-IS coali­tion will carry out strikes against IS with var­i­ous types of air­craft, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing Apache at­tack helicopters. The coali­tion has also de­ployed ar­tillery in­clud­ing can­nons and rocket launch­ers to pro­vide fire sup­port from the ground. The op­er­a­tion will in­volve a coali­tion of some­times ri­val Iraqi forces in­clud­ing sol­diers, po­lice, pesh­merga forces from Iraq’s au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion, and var­i­ous pro-gov­ern­ment para­mil­i­tary groups. The ex­act role of the var­i­ous forces has not been pub­licly an­nounced, but there have been re­ports of an agree­ment un­der which nei­ther the pesh­merga nor Iran-backed Shi­ite mili­tia forces will en­ter Mo­sul, leav­ing that as­sault pri­mar­ily to the Iraqi army. Iraqi forces are equipped with as­sault and sniper ri­fles, light and heavy ma­chine­guns, mine-clear­ing charges, ar­mored per­son­nel car­ri­ers, tanks, var­i­ous types of ar­tillery, at­tack helicopters and air­craft in­clud­ing Su-25 and F-16 jets.

Bombs, hu­man shields

IS will be vastly out­num­bered in the bat­tle and will seek to use hit-an­drun tac­tics, am­bushes, snipers, bombs, berms and trenches to slow down and bleed Iraqi forces. The ji­hadists have lit­tered other cities with thou­sands of bombs, plac­ing them in roads, build­ings and houses. The large civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in­side Mo­sul may have lim­ited the lo­ca­tions they could place ex­plo­sives, but bombs will still play a ma­jor role in IS’s de­fenses. Ob­sta­cles such as earthen bar­ri­ers-some­times with bombs in­side-will be used to slow down Iraqi forces who will need to clear them to ad­vance, ex­pos­ing them to am­bushes.

IS will tar­get Iraqi troops with sui­cide bombers wear­ing ex­plo­sive vests or belts, and oth­ers driv­ing bomb-rigged ve­hi­cles. The ji­hadists may equip at­tack­ers with ri­fles as well as bombs, al­low­ing them to at­tack with guns and then blow them­selves up. The ji­hadists will likely seek to use Mo­sul civil­ians as hu­man shields to limit air strikes against them, and have also pre­vi­ously lit fires in an at­tempt to pro­vide cover from at­tack­ing war­planes. IS seized a large num­ber of ar­mored ve­hi­cles, trucks, arms and other equip­ment when they over­ran Mo­sul and other ar­eas in June 2014, but it is un­clear how much of it has been lost in pre­vi­ous bat­tles that have driven the ji­hadists out of much of the ter­ri­tory they seized. IS fight­ers will be armed with as­sault and sniper ri­fles, light and heavy ma­chine­guns, ar­mored ve­hi­cles, pos­si­bly in­clud­ing tanks, mor­tars, and a wide ar­ray of bombs-some planted to be trig­gered by Iraqi forces, and oth­ers set off by sui­cide bombers.

Ques­tions of tim­ing

Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi an­nounced yes­ter­day that op­er­a­tions to lib­er­ate Mo­sul had be­gun after al­ready call­ing an op­er­a­tion to re­take Nin­eveh prov­ince, of which Mo­sul is the cap­i­tal, in March this year. The tim­ing of Abadi’s an­nounce­ment is in line with pre­dic­tions by West­ern of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing US Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen­eral Joe Dun­ford, that an of­fen­sive would be launched in Oc­to­ber. A key re­quire­ment was the co­op­er­a­tion of pesh­merga forces from the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion. Their leader Mas­sud Barzani said on Satur­day that the time had come to be­gin op­er­a­tions. Abadi re­mains on tar­get to keep his prom­ise that Mo­sul would be lib­er­ated in 2016 but it is still un­clear when Iraqi forces will be in a po­si­tion to move into the city proper. Para­mil­i­tary forces known as the Hashed Al-Shaabi (Pop­u­lar Mo­bil­i­sa­tion) will also take part in fight­ing in the Mo­sul theatre. While they are os­ten­si­bly un­der Abadi’s con­trol, the most pow­er­ful groups op­er­ate with a great deal of au­ton­omy and with in­put from Tehran.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.