As the tide of battle turns against the Islamic State group in Northern Iraq, there are signs of subversion and popular resistance from citizens in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
Eyewitnesses in Mosul have telephoned friends and relatives outside the city to report that Mosul residents have raised the Iraqi flag over 20 buildings in different areas in the city, causing some panic among Islamic State terrorists, according to Maalomah TV news.
In the town of Hammam Al-Alil, 20 miles south of Mosul on the Tigris River, there are clashes between ISIS terrorists, according Ali Sada, editor of Daesh Daily. Residents have put Iraqi flags on buildings and houses, and dozens of people are trying to kick the Islamic State group out of the city, Sumaria TV reported Wednesday.
Former Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujaifi said recently that resistance networks within the city can start to act when Iraqi forces approach the city limits.
“We have to have physical contact between the people and the Iraqi army,” he said. “To have 1,000 fighters within the city is more powerful than having 10,000 soldiers outside the city.”
Controversy continues over whether Nujaifi’s other group, the “Hashd Watani,” or "National Mobilization” forces, should be given a role in the Mosul campaign. He claims to have 1,000 trained and equipped fighters ready at a base near Bashiqe, 20 miles east of Mosul, and another 2,000 trained fighters on standby. But the Iraqi Army and the Coalition do not trust him because of his Sunni separatist sympathies, Sada said.
“If the United States is opposed to using Nujaifi’s Sunni Popular Mobilization Unit in preference to a Shia one - that is problematic and will not work in Mosul," said Mike Pregent, a retired career military intelligence officer and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. Pregent said the force to retake Mosul must be led by Sunni fighters who will be welcomed by Mosul residents. Nujaifi’s defense force is filled with Sunni recruits
The mood in Baghdad was jubilant Thursday, as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi presided over a victory parade during Iraq’s National Day in al-Tahrir Square, which showcased a string of victories by Iraqi forces in Anbar Province. Iraq’s army declared complete victory over the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah at the end of June.
The Pentagon has pledged more U.S. troops to assist in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Mosul. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told U.S. forces in Baghdad on July 11, that 561 additional troops will arrive to give closer support to the Iraqi Army.
Other coalition partners are sending reinforcements as well for the Mosul campaign. France is sending its aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle back to the Middle East in the autumn to hammer the Islamic State from the air with fighter bombers.
With the capture of an airbase five miles west of Qayara, a small city 40 miles south of Mosul, the Iraq army now has a base for staging a formal campaign to recapture Mosul.
Nujaifi estimated the number of Islamic State fighters defending Mosul and surrounding areas is no more that 8,000, although the ranks may have swelled with the influx of soldiers who escaped from Fallujah and the city of Shirkat, 60 miles south of Mosul.
For two weeks, fierce fighting around the Sunni Arab city of Shirkat, 60 miles south of Mosul in northern Saladin Province, has caused rapid movement of Islamic State forces struggling to remain in control of the city of 143,000 people.
The Islamic State group reported Wednesday that Omar “the Chechen” Shishani, a top leader of its military, had been killed by an air strike in Shirkat. The U.S.-led Coalition had claimed that Shishani had been killed by an air strike in Syria in March, but the Islamic State denied the claim. The report of Shishani’s death has yet to be confirmed by Pentagon sources.
According to Iraqi media reports, virtually all foreign fighters have left Shirkat, leaving only Iraqi Islamic State recruits to push back against the elite counter-terrorism brigade of the Iraqi army and the 92nd armored brigade, composed chiefly of Iraqi Turkmen volunteers from Tel Afar, according to Dr. Ali Al-Bayati, head of the Turkmen Rescue Foundation.
“As we saw in the battle of Fallujah, the local ISIS fighters will shave their beards and try to blend into the local population,” said Sada of Daesh Daily. The Islamic State is preventing the civilian population of Hawijah, a city 30 miles Southwest of Kirkuk, from escaping, he said, but it is sending family members of Islamic State fighters to Mosul for their protection.