Issues Under Fire: Mosul is Under Attack
Normally we’d wait until the party is in full swing before predicting the outcome, but as seasoned international crisis analysts we saw no reason to waste time cutting to the chase. So, here’s the deal: facing smoke screens, IED’s and suicide bombers, a retrained, rearmed and refocused Iraqi army is taking the lead in a major offensive to dislodge ISIS from its declared Caliphate space. Mosul is under attack. Heavily supported by U.S. Special OPs units conducting raids in ISIS held territory to soften up defenses prior to launching the effort to retake Mosul, will give Iraqi forces a fighting chance to bust their move on the Islamic State’s stronghold. Hopefully, this strategy works, because the last time the Iraqi army faced ISIS, they had their heads handed to them. Literally.
With fingers, toes and even eyes crossed for luck, the Obama administration is praying this operation will once and for all expose the Islamic extremists for what they really are –  maniacs. The brutal persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, the destruction of cultural sites and routine beheadings for relatively minor offenses, certainly qualifies Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s crew for such a descriptor. BTW, “Big al-Baghdadi” was reportedly killed in an air strike back in June of this year, but none of the reports have amounted to more than rumors, to date.
Unfortunately, this is tricky business, because when the shit finally hits the fan, the real fighting will take place in an urban setting. Tanks and air strikes will be useless. This is when it gets up close and personal. Human shields will be deployed. Yes, women and young children will be used for cover. Hospitals, Mosques and schools will provide shelter for the wounded, the faithful, as well as the fleeing jihadist. This scene will get ugly and it won’t take long.
With a population estimated to be between 600,000 and two million people, sorting out the hardcore fighters from sympathizers, noncombatants and outright hostages won’t be easy. Males between the ages of 8 and 60 will be suspected of just about everything. And after reports of female suicide bombers making the news on the regular, they too will face unprecedented scrutiny. When doors are kicked in for homes to be searched so identities can be established, the gloves will come off. Having no idea who’s who, a lot of enhanced interrogations will take place and they won’t be pretty to look at.
Prosecuting a major military operation in an urban setting with no way to determine how many inhabitants are looking to be rescued and how many are preparing to fight to the death, is a mission most would consider impossible. Everything from friendly faces shielding snipers, to booby traps in shitty diapers can and should be expected. Indoctrinated child soldiers will present nightmares never to be forgotten. Even raped, wedded and enslaved young girls may have been brainwashed to kill to preserve the Caliphate. But wait, it gets worse.
Considering the U.S. is intentionally leading from behind to limit American casualties, the Obama administration has to be careful this operation doesn’t devolve into a sectarian affair. While the 25,000 troops taking part in this mission reportedly include paramilitary forces made up of both Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militiamen, Shiite militias who’ve already been accused of summary executions, torture and abductions of Sunni civilians and captives may be difficult to manage from a distance. But wait, it gets worse. If the Shiite militias can’t be controlled and we don’t think they can, the Obama administration could exacerbate an already complicated crisis.
In addition to the Shiites’ centuries old beef with Sunnis, Shiite militia leaders have been openly threatening to attack U.S. Special Forces, if given the opportunity during this mission. They fought U.S. forces throughout the occupation of Iraq after the capture and hanging of Saddam Hussein and they plan on fighting any residual U.S. forces as occupiers now. How the Obama administration plans to thread this needle is a mystery and one has to wonder why try.
Bottom line: The international community is bracing itself for more than a million civilians to flee Mosul seeking a safe space until things cool off. And if history has taught us anything, waiting for things to cool off could take years. Where this latest surge of “refugees” are expected to find sanctuary is unclear, but one thing is for certain, they won’t be allowed to come here. Podcast below.