Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tal Afar Battle Day 4


(Joint Operations Command)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) moved further into Tal Afar in just the fourth day of the campaign. First, on August 22, Kifa was declared freed. That turned out to be another example of exaggeration by the ISF. On August 23, the Badr Organization repeated that claim, but then the Golden Division said it only cleared south Kifa, while the northern section was still under attack by the Federal Police and Hashd. The 9th Division along with the 2nd, 11th, and 26th Hashd Brigades took Tanak in east Tal Afar, while the 16th Hashd Brigade entered Khadra in the south. Originally, Baghdad claimed that Tal Afar would follow the model of Mosul with only the Golden Division, army and police entering the town. The government also allegedly held secret meetings with Turkey to assure it that the Hashd would only have a limited role since Ankara threatened intervention over their involvement. Instead what’s happened is that ISF units have been partnered up with Hashd brigades and they have entered Tal Afar from multiple directions. This includes Badr, which is connected to Iran, and exactly the type of unit the Erdogan government was opposed to taking part in the campaign.

Other army and Hashd units were holding the perimeter. Asheq, Sheikh Ibrahim, Ain Wah, and Hamra al-Arab were all freed. In another variation from Mosul, the ISF did not methodically clear all of the surrounding areas before taking on the main target. This time, the Iraqis rushed towards the center of Tal Afar as quickly as possible relying upon multiple fronts and overwhelming force to simply overpower the IS defenders. That has left plenty of small towns under IS control. That’s what the 15th Division and several Hashd forces are now taking on.

August 22 there was a story that several pro-Iran Hashd had left the Tal Afar operation because they were against the Americans participation. The next day, the Joint Operations command denied that Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah or the Khorasani Brigades had departed. These groups have been rather obsessed with Tal Afar for months now. They said they wanted to seize it at the end of 2016 when it was originally reached, and continuously complained that Baghdad and specifically Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had blocked them. It would have been very surprising if they had suddenly gotten up and left after all this time. Even if some pulled out, they would likely return later as they see Tal Afar as so important because of its Shiite Turkmen population, and the fact that it has been an important center of Islamic State activity for years.

The fighting in Tal Afar has decreased the number of displaced (IDPs) flowing out of the area. The United Nations reported since the start of April approximately 30,000 people had left the district. From August 1-18, the Iraqi government counted an average of 1,000 IDPs coming out of the district per day, mostly from the surrounding villages. Then from August 18-22 only around 400 people arrived per day at screening centers in southern Ninewa. The Iraqi forces and the U.S. led Coalition have been bombing the district for a month and a half now, and that started the initial displacement. The U.N. believes that 40,000 are still within Tal Afar. The campaign is moving so quickly that Tal Afar might be liberated before they even have time to flee.

SOURCES

AIN, “Urgent liberation of Mullah Jasim village and the storming of northern Tal Afar,” 8/23/17

Asia Satellite TV, “The Anti-Terrorism Forces free southern Kifa neighborhood in Tal Afar,” 8/23/17

Baghdad Post, “Iraqi forces retake new Tal Afar neighborhood,” 8/23/17

Al Mada, “Conflicts over the withdrawal of parts of the crowd from the Tal Afar battle,” 8/23/17

Iraq Newspaper, “Iraqi Newspaper Reporter In Tal Afar: Joint Operations Denies With Withdrawal of Kataib Hezbollah and Khorasani Brigades,” 8/23/17

Mostafa, Mohamed, “UPDATED: Iraqi forces recapture more areas in Tal Afar,” Iraqi News, 8/23/17

New Sabah, “The joint forces approach within 200 m of the center of Tal Afar after the liberation of Kifa and Tanak,” 8/23/17

Al Noor News, “Al-Tanak East District Of Tal Afar Freed,” 8/23/17

REACH Initiative, “Iraq Humanitarian Overview: Telafar City and Surrounding Areas, 22 August 2017,” 8/22/17

Rudaw, “Civilians face harsh conditions on route out of Tal Afar,” 8/23/17
- “Iraqi forces liberate first neighborhood inside Tal Afar,” 8/23/17

Shafaaq News, “Urgent: Iraqi forces liberate a new neighborhood in Tal Afar offensive,” 8/23/17

Sherwani, Leyla, “Two More Neighborhoods Freed in Tal Afar,” Bas News, 8/23/17

Al Sumaria, “Badr announces the liberation of the northern Kifa neighborhood in Tal Afar, 8/23/17
- “Security forces liberate three villages and control the Sheikh Ibrahim mountain range in Tal Afar,” 8/23/17

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 23 August 2017,” 8/23/17

Waradana, “The entire Kifa neighborhood was liberated northwest Tal Afar,” 8/22/17

Watan News, “Storming al-Tanak neighborhood and taking control of its health center,” 8/23/17

Xinhua, “Iraqi forces retake new areas from IS in Tal Afar,” 8/23/17

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