Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Iraqi PM says ISIS will be defeated in Iraq in three months...

Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi speaks via video. Reuters. 

Iraq's Prime Minster, Haider al-Abadi says that ISIS will be defeated in Iraq in three months. Reuters. Abadi has revised his previous prediction that Mosul would be liberated this year, as the battle has bogged down. Abadi made the prediction after being asked to comment on a report from a US commander saying that it would take two years to fully eliminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Abadi said that the Americans were pessimistic and that his forces were brave and strong enough to reduce the time to liberate Iraq fully to three months. In Mosul itself the battle continues, with the US led coalition bombing the last bridge over the river Euphrates. Only one quarter of Mosul was captured before Iraqi troops stood down. The offensive is scheduled to continue shortly. Beyond Mosul, ISIS still controls the towns of Tel-Afr, Qaim and Hawjia. 

My Comment:
Abadi is probably going to regret those words. The battle for Mosul started two months ago and has only liberated 25% of the city. If they keep going at that rate it's going to take another 6 months at least to fully liberate Mosul. And that assumes that the battle stays on track. 

It's already clear to me that the battle isn't on track. The fact that Iraqi troops had to stop advancing shows me that they were either unprepared to take back the city or that they ran out of supplies and/or took to many casualties. From what I have seen the battle for Mosul has been absolutely brutal and I doubt that it will end anytime soon. 

And it's not like Mosul is the only place in Iraq that ISIS has control over. Even if the city were to fall today, and it won't, there would still be several major towns left to liberate. The most notable of these, Tel-Afr, has long been a hotbed of ISIS activity and is known in the region to be a place full of bad guys. Though liberating it would probably be easier then liberating Mosul, I still expect it would take quite a bit of time and blood to take. 

Furthermore, Abadi's predictions have discounted the possibility that ISIS could go on offensive. Though ISIS has been mauled pretty bad in both Iraq and Syria, the battle for Palmyra shows that they still have the capability. Indeed, Palmyra shows how ISIS could take advantage of the battle of Mosul. If they have any troops available they could send them somewhere else in Iraq, perhaps in the center of the country and attempt to take back one of the cities that were liberated this year. It might not work because ISIS is pretty weak right now, but even an unsuccessful attack would probably force Iraq to shift forces around and weaken their attack in Mosul. 

Even if Mosul were liberated, even if the other smaller towns were taken as well and even if ISIS fails any new offensives, would that be the end of ISIS in Iraq? I would say no, especially considering that they still have a massive amount of territory in Syria to retreat too. Remember, ISIS came from al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that was largely destroyed in the last days of the US lead war in Iraq. After their defeat they took advantage of the chaos in Syria to regroup, rearm and reorganize into the Islamic State. That could very well happen again, especially with the Syrian regime focusing on other rebel groups in Syria. 

Another possibility is that ISIS goes underground. As ISIS loses territory and weapons they may transform from a government into a more traditional terrorist organization. Indeed, that has already happened in Libya, where ISIS lost control of most of their territory. Though ISIS has largely been defeated in Libya, ISIS is still present there and will probably launch terror attacks or attempt to take territory again. 

So how long will it take to liberate Mosul? I am not sure. The fact that they just bombed the last bridge in the city tells me that they are getting a bit desperate. Destroying that bridge will have humanitarian concerns and ISIS has already used it as a propaganda tool before when they just damaged it. I am thinking that if Mosul really was just a couple of months away from liberation this bombing wouldn't have happened. 

I also think that Iraq has probably expended quite a few of their forces. Remember, Iraq was depending on their special forces to take the city. The other forces available all have their own problems. The regular Iraqi army isn't anywhere near dependable enough. The Iranian led Shia militias are likely to turn Mosul into an abattoir, and the Kurds aren't likely to fight for a city so far away from their homelands. That leaves the special forces, who have already been overused and expended this year.   

My guess is that Mosul is going to stay largely in the control of ISIS for quite some time. 6 months is a stretch and I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Mosul isn't liberated by this time next year. And even if it is, I expect an insurgency of left behind ISIS fighters to continue for a long time after the city is officially liberated. Unless something absolutely crazy happens, that's my prediction. 

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