Advvance on Mosul from the south paused after fierce resistance from Islamic State

(October 27)After many days of positive reports about the offensive against Mosul in Iraq, Iraq special forces south of the city have run into heavy resistance. As a result, their advance has been paused while they await reinforcements.

For the present, the southern advance has been stopped and only Kurdish forces in the north are still advancing towards Mosul.
While officials are treating this as a brief pause, it effectively means that the Islamic State (IS) has temporarily broken the southern advance into Mosul, and that only the northern advance of the Kurdish peshmerga are still approaching the city. This could be a problem for the Baghdad government. The Kurds may decide to annex territory that they capture. If most of the area is captured by the Kurdish peshmerga, Baghdad may have difficulty reclaiming it as part of their territory. There may be some question as well as to how ready the Iraqi forces are to mount the offensive. In the past, Iraqi forces have not always been resolute in the face of setbacks. The IS has been using large numbers of car bombs combined with machine gun and sniper fire to resist the advancing Iraqi forces.
Army and federal police units are attempting to drive IS fighters from villages in the Shora area about 30k kilometers or 20 miles south of Mosul which the IS has held since 2014. An elite army unit to the east has also paused its advance as it waits for other attacking forces to catch up. Major Chris Parker, a spokesperson for the U.S.-coalition based at the Qayyara airbase south of Mosul said: "As Iraqi forces move closer to Mosul we see that Daesh resistance is getting stronger". "Daesh" is an Arabic term for the Islamic State.
The offensive is creating a humanitarian disaster as many of the 1.5 million residents of Mosul flee the city. In the worst case scenario, the UN forecasts up to a million people may leave the city. Some residents of the area said that their relatives had been used as human shields as the IS retreated from their area. UN aid agencies estimate that so far about 10,600 people have fled from the area under attack. UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande said that a mass exodus could happen within the next couple of days. She also said that in the worst case scenario the IS could resort to "rudimentary chemical weapons' to halt the advance. Major General Najm al-Jabouri, commander of the Mosul offensive said that his soldiers had destroyed at least 95 car bombs since the operation began back on October 17.
The IS fighters have already set oil fires and just recently sulfur stock fires at a factory south of Mosul, with the latter sending up clouds of toxic smoke. The smoke effected U.S. troops based at Qayyara: "Troops weren’t ordered to put on their masks, but many chose to do so on their own. Commanders have told troops in areas affected by smoke to limit outdoor activity, according to a release from the coalition." The IS fighters destroyed everything they could before they retreated from Qayyara leaving the occupiers much work to do before it could be used as a forward operating base.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that an offensive against Raqqa the main IS stronghold in Syria would begin even before the Mosul offensive had ended. An anonymous U.S. official claimed that about 50,000 Iraqi ground troops are involved in the offensive. 30,000 are from the federal government forces, 10,000 are Kurdish peshmerga fighters and there are 10,000 police together with local volunteers. Five to six thousand IS fighters are thought to be defending the area. The U.S. has roughly 5,000 troops in Iraq but away from the front lines.
Iraqi defense minister Brigadier-General Yahya Rasooi, said that Shiite militias, known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces(PMF) would open a new front in the coming days. Many worry that the presence of Shiite fighters will fuel sectarian violence in the area in which Sunnis predominate. Turkey has threatened to "take measures" should the PMF attack Tal Afar a Turkmen part of Mosul. Turkey and the Iraq federal government are already at odds over the presence of Turkish troops north of Mosul.


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