Monday, August 21, 2017

Start Of The Tal Afar Battle


PM Abadi and his military staff announcing start of Tal Afar operation (Al Noor News)

US 82nd Airborne troops manning anti-tank missile outside Abu Ghaddur during Tal Afar operation (AP)

Belgium Special Forces operating anti-tank missiles next to the US troops (AP)

The Tal Afar operation finally began just over a month after Mosul was freed. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the campaign on TV stating that the Islamic State could either surrender or die. The Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets over Tal Afar telling people the battle had begun.

A mix of forces are involved in the liberation. Around 40,000 troops will take part from the 1st and 3rd Brigades of the Counter-Terrorism Service, also known as the Golden Division, the army’s 9th, 15th, and 16th Divisions, the 6th Federal Police Division, Rapid Reaction units, along with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 26th, 43rd, 47th, and 53rd Hashd Brigades. As with Mosul, the Golden Division will be in the lead, the army and police will be in support, and the Hashd will take the perimeter. Months ago, Turkey voiced opposition to the Hashd playing a role in the battle claiming that they would commit sectarian crimes against the population. According to Niqash and Iraqi News Baghdad held secret talks with Ankara assuring them about the Hashd’s role. Like Mosul however, as soon as the fighting is over the Hashd will move into the town. The Iranian backed Hashd especially, believe they are the protectors of the Shiite Turkmen in the district and want to control the town because it has been a major Islamic State base for years.

The Iraqi forces are taking on Tal Afar from several axes. The Federal Police and the 3rd Hashd Brigade freed five villages in the west, the Golden Division two in the southwest, the 9th Division and a Hashd brigade advanced 8 kilometers and took one town and the Zamber Mountains in the southeast, the 16th Division seized eight towns in the east, and the Badr Brigade advanced to some foothills to the northwest. The Iraqi Forces (ISF) claimed two lines of Islamic State defenses collapsed on the first day. After the Mosul campaign, the ISF have greatly improved their ability to coordinate along multiple fronts. When the attack is maintained from multiple sides the Iraqis are at their best as they stretch the limited manpower of the insurgents.

On the other side, IS is employing the same strategy it used in Mosul. It is only putting up limited opposition on the perimeter using small units along with IEDs, suicide bombers, and car bombs. The Tal Afar district is mostly open land. That means the insurgents are vulnerable to air strikes and artillery, and will gladly give up the territory. The real fight won’t begin until the actual town is reached. There the urban environment will give the militants cover and allow them to best use their limited manpower and fire and maneuver tactics. Unfortunately for them, Tal Afar is not that big and the Golden Division has prodigious experience in taking on these types of environments. 

SOURCES

Al Alam, “A car bomb was destroyed before it reached the advanced forces in Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- “Iraqi forces begin the process of liberation Tal Afar from the southwest of the town,” 8/20/17

Baghdad Post, “Exclusive: Federal Police recapture 4 neighborhoods in Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- "Exclusive photo: 1st soldier killed during Tal Afar operations," 8/20/17
- “Key IMIS outfit to participate in Tal Afar ops amid Sunni concerns,” 8/20/17
- “Storming Tal Afar ‘ISIS-held city’ ‘likely’ to be on Monday- officer,” 8/18/17
- “Tal Afar to be recaptured within 8 weeks – Security expert,” 8/20/17
- “US-backed Iraqi army liberates 2 villages in Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

BBC, “IS conflict: Iraq launches ground offensive in Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Buratha News, “Badr announces control of the mountains leading to Mount Sassan, northwest of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Chmaytelli, Maher, “Iraq starts offensive to take back Tal Afar from Islamic State,” Reuters, 8/19/17

Choukeir, Ali, “Iraq begins battle to retake Tal Afar, IS bastion near Mosul,” Agence France Presse, 8/20/17

Al Forat “Leader in the popular crowd: the liberation of 13 villages in Tal Afar and information about the escape of leaders in the battle,” 8/20/17
- “Urgent The liberation of the villages of Batisha, Al-Alam, Khafaja, Halibiya, Al-Aliya and Marzeef east of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Al Ghad Press, “Al-Harb Media: Joint Forces liberate the village of Tal-Sambak east of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Habib, Mustafa, “Next Stop, Tal Afar: In Northern Iraq, Forces Prepare For Extremists’ Last Stand,” Niqash, 8/17/17

Hath Al-Youm, “The Air Force dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets on the center of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

IANS, “Iraqi forces launch offensive on Islamic State in Tel Afar, recapture three villages,” 8/20/17

Iraq Newspaper, "Iraqi Newspaper Reporter In Tal Afar: Five Suicide Bombers, Including Three Iraqis And Two Turks In West and East Tal Afar," 8/20/17

Al Jazeera, “Thousands flee ahead of Tal Afar ground invasion,” 8/19/17

Al Mada, “Iraqi Forces attack Tal Afar and liberate 11 villages in the vicinity,” 8/21/17
- “A senior US general expects a “fierce battle” in Tal Afar,” 8/21/17
- “Tal Afar Liberation Plan: gradual surrounding on 3 axes and shelling the perimeter,” 8/20/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Newspaper: Baghdad assured Ankara of limited militia role in Tal Afar,” Iraqi News, 8/16/17
- “Popular Mobilization to field 20.000 fighters for Tal Afar battle,” Iraqi News, 8/18/17

Mostafa, Nehal, “Several regions regained in Tal Afar as Iraqi troops advance from southern direction,” Iraqi News, 8/20/17

Al Noor News, “URGENT Al-Abadi announces the start of the liberation of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Rudaw, “Iraqi forces, US coalition step up airstrikes ahead of Tal Afar ops,” 8/15/17
- “UPDATES: Iraqi PM announces operation to retake Turkmen city of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Shafaaq News, “Iraqi forces and the popular crowd begin to attack Tal Afar to break the grip of Daesh,” 8/20/17
Shafaaq News, “Urgent: Iraqi forces take the first positions on the Tal Afar front,” 8/20/17
- “Yarallah announces the forces participating in the battle of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17

Al Sumaria, “The collapse of two Daesh lines in Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- “Source: Fever withdrawal sweeping Tal Afar belt and lack of communication by Daesh,” 8/20/17

Szlanko, Balint and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Thousands flee as Iraq steps up airstrikes on IS-held town,” Associated Press, 8/15/17

Szlanko, Balint and Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq launches operation to take back IS-held town near Mosul,” Associated Press, 8/20/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 14 August 2017,” 8/14/17
- “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 17 August 2017” 8/17/17

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Thousands of civilians fleeing Telafar are at extreme risk,” 8/20/17

Wardana, “Daash prevent the people of Tal Afar from fleeing,” 8/17/17

Watan News, “Counter-terrorism forces frees two villages south-west of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- “The crowd and army advance 8 km from the south-eastern axis and control Zanzibar,” 8/20/17
- “The federal police in support of the popular crowd liberated the villages of Najar and Hanash in the western axis of Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- “Tal Afar We Are Coming issued a statement on the liberation battle,” 8/20/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi commander pledges to liberate Tal Afar from IS group,” 8/20/17
- “Iraqi forces launch operation to free Tal Afar from IS militants,” 8/20/17
- “Iraqi forces liberate IS-held village in western Tal Afar,” 8/20/17
- “UN warns of thousands civilians to flee Tal Afar as anti-IS offensive launched,” 8/20/17

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