The failue of the US-backed Iraqi army offensive to liberate Mosul - nine weeks after it began - could no longer be denied when a delegation of ISIS chiefs arrived there Sunday, Dec. 4, traveling unhindered from Raqqa, Syria.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that they arrived to discuss how to synchronize the operations of the two jihadist strongholds, after the Islamist leaders occupying Mosul changed course about leaving the city and decided to stay put.
This decision followed their assessment that the Iraqi army and its American backers were incapable of bringing their offensive to a successful conclusion. It was also evident in Washington that the US commanders in the field would not be able to meet Barack Obama’s presidential directive to capture Mosul by the end of December, so that he could exit the White House next month with a successful Mosul campaign behind hm.
Altogether 54,000 Iraqi troops and 5,000 US servicemen – supported by 90 warplanes and 150 heavy artillery pieces - were invested in the Mosul campaign when it was launched in October. They proved unable to beat 9,000 jihadists.
Iraqi forces have gained no more than one-tenth of the territory assigned them. This lack of progress has damped their initial impetus and sapped their morale. While Baghdad keeps on pumping out reports of good progress and new fronts opening up, the Iraqi army has come to a virtual standstill and does nothing more than exchange fire with ISIS fighters.
The first sign that ISIS had reversed its tactics and decided to hold out against the Iraqi assault came in the form of a slickly-produced video released by the jihadists on Nov. 27 to display their defenses inside Mosul. It showed commando units in battle formation, sniper positions in place, bomb cars parked at key points and well-barricaded streets. In the terrain from which they pulled back, they had strewn shells and rockets loaded with poisonous chemicals as a warning message to Iraqi troops that they would storm the city at their peril.
Our sources report meanwhile that some of the ISIS fighters who quit Mosul in the early stage of the Iraqi offensive are turning back, along with some of the administration officials.
The Kurdish Peshmerga, which three weeks ago turned their backs on the campaign, now realize they will have to live with ISIS as a dangerous next-door neighbor, after all. They are bending their energies to establishing a strong line of defense against Mosul, to secure their capital Irbil and other towns of the semiautonomous Kurdish Republic of Iraq.
Aware of the crisis on the Mosul front, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for sending out US reinforcements in the hope of turning the tide of the stalled battle. Those plans repose in their pending trays to await the decisions of the incoming US President Donald Trump and the new Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis.