The US-backed Iraqi campaign launched in October to liberate Mosul from the clutches of the Islamic State is on its last legs, although the Obama administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi are making every effort to disguise the debacle.
Iraqi army’s Mosul operation has run aground, despite solid US military backing, giving the advantage to Islamic State fighters occupying Iraq’s biggest city since the summer of 2015.
This development has major security ramifications - not only for Iraq, but also for Syria, Jordan, Israel and the West at large.
The jihadists staunched the Iraqi army’s advance by releasing in its path hundreds of suicide killers in waves on foot and in bomb cars. This tactic has inflicted crippling losses on the two elite Iraqi divisions leading the offensive, the Golden Division, which is the backbone of Iraq’s Special Operations forces, and the 9th Armored Division. Devastating losses forced both to pull back from the battlefield.
This week, another 1,700 US special operations forces and 4,000 members of the Iraqi federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS) were urgently sent out to reinforce the crumbling front lines. Their deployment was officially characterized as marking the launch of “the second phase of the operation to retake Mosul.”
Their real function was to prop up the few positions Iraqi forces have captured so far and save the Mosul offensive from crashing.
Western military observers noted Saturday, Dec. 31, that more and more American troops are to be seen on the embattled city’s front lines. US combatants are therefore fighting face to face with ISIS jihadists, a development the Obama administration is loath to admit, never having released the number of American lives lost in the Mosul offensive.
Our military sources add that the Iraqi counter-terrorism force sent to Mosul was previously posted in Baghdad to secure the capital against Islamist terrorist operations and ISIS attempts to seize the center and Iraqi’s national government centers. Its transfer to Mosul, 356km to the north, exposed central Baghdad to terror.
And, inevitably, on Saturday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up on a main street of the capital, killing 28 people and inuring 40 in their first major attack there in three months since the onset of the Mosul offensive..
This happened the day after the Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook released an unwelcome report that US security agencies “do think [Abu Bakr al] Baghdadi is alive and is still leading” the Islamic group and the battle for Mosul.
ISIS for its part issued a menacing new communiqué that jacked up its threat against neighboring Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his security forces, in the wake of its terrorist-cum-hostage assault earlier this month on the southern town of Karak, in which 10 people were killed and 29 injured.
The communiqué reads:“All Jordanian soldiers, police, mosque preachers, information activists and regime supporters are legitimate targets for the muhahideen’s bullets and knives. All of Jordan is an open battlefield!”
ISIS is informing the world of its coming targets, say DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources, which are:
1. The overthrow of the Hashemite king and his rule, and
2. The seizure of southern Jordan.
If Baghdadi succeeds in this scheme, he will gain control of a large stretch of land adjacent to Israel and Egyptian Sinai to the west and Saudi Arabia to the south, thereby bringing both under threat and placing itself close enough to block the port of Aqaba, Jordan’s only outlet to the sea.
From the desert region of southern Jordan, ISIS will also achieve proximity to the Sinai desert – through Israeli and Egyptian Bedouin – and be able to control the main Middle East arms-smuggling route and the Sinai center of operations of this illicit and enormously profitable trade