Iraq

ISHM: February 17 - 23, 2017

Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

Key Takeaways:

Mosul Airport Cleared, Western Operations Move Forward as Violence Flares in the East – On February 23, Iraqi Security Forces, including Federal Police and Rapid Response teams assisted by U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes successfully cleared Mosul Airport and the neighboring former army base of Ghazlani of ISIS militants. Although ISIS destroyed the airport’s runway, the large swath of land the airport occupies just south of the city’s western half will be a strategically important staging area as efforts to clear the rest of western Mosul ramp up. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of operations to clear western Mosul on February 19. Popular Mobilization Units are covering cleared areas to the west of the city, Federal Police to the south, and Iraqi Army from the east and north. In eastern Mosul, which was ostensibly cleared of ISIS militants two weeks ago, ISIS sniper, drone, and IED attacks continue to plague returnees, particularly along the banks of the Tigris River. The Iraqi Army and its elite Counter-terrorism Service (and, according to EPIC’s sources, certain PMUs), are continuing their attempts to keep eastern Mosul clear of ISIS. more…

Aid Delivery Resumes in East Mosul as Residents, Agencies Brace for West Operations – The UN reported that aid delivery has resumed to all parts of eastern Mosul, where residents and returnees continue to experience outsized need. Aid was temporarily halted last week after certain neighborhoods along the Tigris River were declared too dangerous for aid workers. In western Mosul, the humanitarian situation is dire even ahead of military operations to clear that half of the city of ISIS militants. Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said on February 18, that “the battle hasn’t started, but already there is a humanitarian crisis.” Food staples are “virtually unattainable” while bags of flour cost upwards of US$ 130 per bag. UNHCR estimates that 250,000 individuals could be displaced as a result of impending military operations in the west, and Save the Children has urged Iraqi Security Forces to establish safety corridors out of the city. Since operations to clear Mosul began in October 2016, the Iraqi government policy has been to encourage residents to shelter-in-place. more…

PMUs Progress Toward Tal Afar, Continue to Interdict Supply Lines – ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly made several changes to ISIS leadership in Tal Afar, 63 kilometers west of Mosul, following a failed ISIS-led offensive against Popular Mobilization Units on February 12. Sources reported that deference is shifting to Arab (rather than non-Arab foreign) militants for leadership positions inside the ISIS-held city. PMUs continue to surround Tal Afar and are interdicting supply lines between the city and Mosul. On February 22, U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes destroyed several IED factories there, killing at least 20 ISIS militants in the process. more…

Defense Secretary Visits Baghdad; Iraq Vet McMaster Named National Security Adviser – On February 20, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss military cooperation and planned missions after Mosul is completely cleared of ISIS militants. In a press conference, Mattis suggested that the U.S. military presence in Iraq will not end immediately following operations in Mosul, and opined that Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, and Popular Mobilization Units have matured over the past few years, leading to an increase in their capability to secure cleared territories. Mattis also said that the U.S. is not “in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” an often ignored campaign promise of President Donald Trump to seize Iraq’s oil in exchange for military assistance. Also on February 20, President Trump appointed Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his National Security Advisor. McMaster has a long history of wartime service in Iraq, and is often acknowledged as one of the architects of the 2007 surge in U.S. military presence and for prioritizing civilian protection. more…

Coalition Airstrikes Continue in Anbar, Kirkuk, and Diyala Provinces; Turkey Targets PKK – U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes continued to target ISIS militants and convoys in Anbar, Kirkuk, and Diyala Provinces this week. On February 21, the Security and Defense Committee in Iraq’s Parliament released a report detailing the recent escalation of bombings and kidnappings in Anbar Province over the past several weeks, and called for better monitoring of inter-province roads. The Diyala Provincial Council made it clear that they would resist any attempts to relocate security forces out of that province to Salah ad-Din, citing ongoing ISIS insurgents that require all available resources to combat. The border between Diyala and Salah ad-Din has seen a significant uptick in ISIS activity after operations to clear Mosul of ISIS militants began last October. On February 20 and 22, Turkish planes attacked Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) encampments in Dohuk and in northern Erbil Province, near Iraq’s border with Iran. Those airstrikes have not been condoned by the Iraqi government, who have repeatedly told Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty. more…

KRG Looks to Streamline Civil Service, Cut Down on Waste – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced a wave of hiring of staff who will be responsible for ensuring that government wages and benefits will be paid only to those eligible to receive them. The KRG Ministry of Finance is also considering updates to its pension programs that would prevent ineligible staff members from receiving pensions. Separately, on February 21, the KRG and Russian oil giant Rosneft finalized a purchase and sale contract, presenting a new market for Kurdistan’s crude oil exports. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.