Cleansing the Nineveh Plain and Mosul
"Daesh is still inside the villages, and they are going to resist more."
"They don’t have large numbers, but they are an ideological group and they aim to explode themselves and die. That’s our problem."
Kurdish Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Ismail Kamal
"Coalition air power is certainly in demand, and we try to provide fires in a timely fashion when called upon."
"Given the size and scope of the operation to liberate Mosul, there may be times when we are unable to fully meet the demand as quickly as forces on the ground would like."
Col. John I. Dorrian, spokesman, United States-led military coalition
|CNN -- A Kurdish Peshmerga convoy drives toward the Khazer front line, October 17, about 30 km from Mosul|
The Kurds enter a town seeing no Islamic State fighters, then they suddenly surface as though emerging from tunnel sanctuaries, attacking the Kurdish advance with gunfire and explosive belts. The initial confidence expressed by many of the Kurdish soldiers has given way to a pensive state of insecurity, and some have complained that the promised U.S.-coalition air support hasn't materialized when it should, where it should, leaving the Kurds entirely exposed. ISIL fighters' propensity to appear out of nowhere has lent credence to the circulating rumours that tunnels have been dug, connecting villages.
Troops marching toward Mosul move initially into surrounding towns on the Nineveh plain. Those approaching and entering Al-Hud had declared it to be liberated somewhat prematurely it appears, for it was not 'liberated' by the entering troops but by the residents themselves. Who had gathered in a force of several hundred in response to Islamic State fighters in the town shooting to death one of the residents who had lofted an Iraqi flag defiantly flaunting his allegiance. The gathered mob turned on the ISIL fighters, killing them in turn.
So that when the troops arrived the town actually had been liberated. What greeted the eyes of the Iraqi troops was a gruesome scene, the mutilated bodies of the ISIL fighters that the village mob had descended upon. Where else in the world but in the Middle East and Africa where tribalism has so great a focus on human lives is such moral depravity and bloody barbarism endemic? Where tribal or sectarian vengeance expresses itself in barbaric atrocities.
There are times when the advancing Iraqi-led coalition of Iraqi security personnel, Kurds, Shiite militias and their Sunni counterparts, come across towns they mean to cleanse of the presence of Islamic State jihadis, only to find none there. And other times when, entering the towns and villages on the plains lining the Tigris River leading to Mosul, they discover resistance by ISIL is fierce and deadly, where roof-top snipers and suicide bombers play out the ISIL handbook.
Iraqi Lt.-Gen. Talib Shaghati, situated near al-Hud, at the Qayyarah airbase informed reporters that up to six thousand Islamic State fighters are in the city of Mosul, defending it from the advancing Iraqis. He called upon the ISIL fighters to surrender. Suddenly the military that fled in panic from the advance of ISIL in 2014, now with backup from the U.S.-led air coalition and the Iranian-faithful Shiite militias has gained some spine and acts out a play where they represent the top dog expecting the inflated numbers of jihadis to quake in fear at their presence.
On the third day of fighting approaching Mosul, Islamic State militants dispatched a dozen car bombs toward Iraqi troops, all of which the Iraqis claim were blown up well before their targets were reached, that a small number of casualties from the mortar rounds resulted. As Peshmerga advanced into the village of Tiskharab they set up positions in the first houses they came to, just as an ISIL car bomb drove toward them, detonating it. Watching from a position overlooking the village Peshmerga and reporters witnessed a huge explosion scattering troops. Trucks carrying the injured and the dead raced away from the village.
|Photo: Andrea DiCenzo for The Wall Street Journal|
Speaking by video link to diplomats in Paris discussing the future of Mosul, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi informed them that the assault force of Iraqi security, Shiite and Sunni militias and Kurdish forces were pushing "more quickly then we thought and more quickly than we had programmed", toward Mosul. Out front, facing the Islamic State jihadis, Kurdish casualties remain the result of improvised explosive devices.
The Kurds had dug an entry in the huge sand berm they had constructed as their fortified border with Islamic State territory over the past two years, allowing a column of Peshmerga tanks, armoured vehicles and sport utility vehicles to move forward. Kurds raised the Kurdish flag in Nawaran, the first village they advanced to, while resistance in Borima, the next town, was stiffer by far.
A number of firefights ensued and finally the Kurds called in an artillery barrage to ease them forward. And then from another town, Kurdish fighters from Fazeliya fired to disable a few suicide car bombs hurtling toward them, disabling one, but another managed to close in sufficiently so that as it exploded several Peshmerga were wounded, with one losing his legs.
|CNN -- A Sunni police officer prays at the Qayyara air base on October 16|
To describe these military-guerrilla encounters as brutal is to fail to do justice to the domination instinct that propels tribal cultures to advance their own interests to terrorize and conquer those whom they calculate are weaker, less motivated ideologically, and unprepared to risk all, welcoming death as the ultimate gift to their maker, and in the doing of it, being elevated in social and religious esteem as a courageous warrior for Islam deserving of his place in Paradise.
Of all the ethnic/religious and social groups living in the area it seems that only the Kurds have no dire grievance against other minority groups, choosing the generosity of spirit to give haven to and protect Christians and Yazidis among others, while doggedly continuing to pursue their dream of final recognition by the international community that this largest and ancient ethnic group of the region is deserving of its own sovereign territory, motivating them to fight on to destroy the presence of a terrorist group defying all human decency.
And facing at the same time, a fierce nationalist enemy in Turkey, fixated on denying Turkish and Syrian Kurds of any legitimacy in their claims for autonomous sovereignty. Like Syria's Bashar al-Assad, claiming that Syrian Sunnis are terrorists for protesting the inequalities imposed upon them by the Shiite Alawite leader, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan denies that the millions of Turkish Kurds have any existential right to a geography of their own, and he is the agent to violently deny them. He does have company in that denial; Iran, Iraq and Syria.