Operation Mother of Two Springs
After several months of planning, Iraqi Security Forces, with the support of Coalition Forces, launched Operation Lion’s Roar (Za'eer al-Assad) in Mosul on May 10, 2008. The purpose of Lion’s Roar was to target the al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) network and other remaining Sunni insurgent groups in Mosul and Ninawa province. In the first few days of Lion’s Roar, Iraqi Security Forces detained 500 individuals in Mosul, found and cleared multiple weapons caches, and established a series of checkpoints and other permanent security structures across the city. Along with military operations, efforts were also made to begin reconciling Mosul’s diverse population and target areas for reconstruction. On Wednesday May 14th, Prime Minister Maliki flew to Mosul to oversee the beginning of the second phase of operations under Operation Mother of Two Springs (Umm al-Rabiain).*
Operation Mother of Two Springs is essentially a continuation of Lion’s Roar. According to Prime Minister Maliki, “the aim of the offensive is to clear Mosul of the criminal terrorist gangs, putting an end to people’s suffering.” Ultimately, “it intends to provide suitable conditions for the operation of state offices, enabling it to reconstruct the city and to deliver services to its people.” Military operations under Mother of Two Springs have continued to target wanted individuals and are concentrated largely in the central areas of Mosul. Iraqi Security Forces are currently attempting to clear contested neighborhoods in central Mosul and establish 24 hour security presences. Some neighborhoods have not seen a security presence in months and establishing 24 hour security through a network of combat outposts has been made a priority. As these central areas become more secure, Iraqi Security Forces will increasingly push out into Mosul’s suburbs and outer lying villages in an effort to dismantle insurgent support areas in Mosul’s belts.
Fourteen insurgent groups are currently active in Ninawa province, but the major groups being targeted are AQI, Ansar al Sunna, and Naqshibandis. Since the beginning of operations in Mosul under Lion’s Roar and Mother of Two Springs at least 1,480 individuals have been detained. Approximately 300 of these individuals were wanted by Iraqi Security Forces. According to Major General Mark Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division – North, as of May 16th about 200 tier one and tier two insurgents were detained. These individuals occupy a variety of leadership and mid-level management positions in AQI and affiliated groups, and are involved in IED, VBIED, and suicide bomb attacks, and finance and facilitation. A number of these individuals are high value targets, but have not yet been identified because of intelligence and operational security. More than 40 weapons and explosives caches have also been found and cleared. One cache discovered on May 26th contained “18,000 pounds of homemade explosives, one ton of nitrate, 10 bottles of liquid nitrate, gloves, gas masks, special boots, five-gallon drums, several barrels, 100 kilograms of ball-bearings, 500 grams of gun powder and various unknown materials."
Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces have faced almost no opposition since the beginning of operations on May 10th. In total, attacks in Mosul have declined from an average of 40 a day in the week prior to the official launch of operations to between 4 and 6 a day in the weeks after – a roughly 85% decrease in attacks. Some insurgents have been detained, others have gone to ground, and still others have fled the Mosul area. Attacks may increase slightly in the coming weeks as AQI regroups in fringe areas and attempts to penetrate Mosul and other urban areas like Talafar and Sinjar with VBIED and suicide bombing attacks.
As part of operations in Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces have been actively blocking escape routes from the area and conducting operations south and west of the city to disrupt insurgent activity and target individuals that may have fled. These areas include the Jazeera desert region west and southwest of Mosul, the cities along the line leading down to northern Salah ad Din province, and the Za’ab triangle west and southwest of Kirkuk. A number of individuals have been detained in these areas including Abdel Khaleq Awad al-Sabawi who is believed to be AQI’s security emir for Ninawa province. Al-Sabawi was detained near Tikrit on May 18th. According to Major General Hertling, a number of detained individuals have also revealed where they were before Mosul and this is helping develop an intelligence picture as to where others who flee the operations may go.
Operation Mother of Two Springs ultimately aims to move forward reconciliation efforts and the political process in Mosul and Ninawa. Laying the groundwork for these initiatives, Prime Minister Maliki announced on May 16th a limited amnesty for those who turned in their weapons in ten days. Prime Minister Maliki and other administration officials have also attempted to reach out to local tribes and former Iraqi Army personnel to try to reconcile the communities that have provided sanctuaries and recruiting pools for the insurgency in the past. Several tribes in the area have expressed interest in forming Sahwa movements. Formal Sahwa movements in Mosul are unlikely, but the coming weeks and months may see comparable efforts to bring local tribes into the political and security structures in Mosul and Ninawa. As part of this process, Major General Riyadh, head of the Ninawa Operations Command, has been given the authority to recruit several thousand local citizens to join the security forces in some capacity in order to help secure the city in the aftermath of major operations.
At root, Mosul’s problems remain political. Reconciliation is the first step in easing these political problems. In the coming months it will be important to reestablish a balance between Mosul’s various groups in order to undercut AQI’s sanctuaries and recruiting pool among disaffected Sunni Arabs in the city. Most importantly, the prime minister has stressed the importance of upcoming provincial elections. Many Sunni Arabs boycotted the 2005 elections and participation this fall can hopefully help bring them into the political process in Ninawa. The Government of Iraq (GoI) will also now focus on regaining control over Ninawa province and integrating it into Iraq’s federal governing structure. Political parties have been asked to vacate government offices in Mosul and a concerted effort will now hopefully be made to re-staff federal offices in order to establish a GoI presence in the city and connect it to the federal government. A similar effort is currently underway in Basra. Connecting these southern and northern centers to Baghdad will be important measures of the GoI’s ability to govern effectively over the coming months.
Mosul also suffers from massive unemployment and has been destroyed by years of fighting. Accordingly, reconstruction projects and reestablishing a normal functioning economy will be critical tasks in the coming months. As a first step, Prime Minister Maliki announced on May 17th a $100 million dollar reconstruction package for Mosul to coincide with ongoing military operations. The prime minister’s envoy, Zuheir al-Janabi, arrived in Mosul on May 29th to deliver and oversee the spending of this money. It will be needed to help rebuild roads and buildings, and restore public services to the local population. Some of these things have already begun to happen. On May 20th, the Al Hurriya Bridge, one of the five bridges that spans the Tigris River and connects west and east Mosul, was reopened after being closed to traffic for more than a year. And the following day Mosul’s mayor toured the Zanjili neighborhood, the site of the massive January 25th explosion that collapsed multiple apartment buildings, and targeted it as an area where a municipality office will be established and public works projects will be provided.
Together, Operations Lion’s Roar and Mother of Two Springs have begun the arduous process of establishing security in Mosul and Ninawa province. As security operations proceed, the GoI is simultaneously working to promote reconciliation and political participation among the province’s diverse groups, and to begin reconstructing Mosul’s infrastructure and rehabilitating the local economy. This massive undertaking will take at least several months and will be an important test for both Iraqi Security Forces and the GoI.
*The name Mother of Two Springs is derived from Mosul’s lengthy spring seasons, which are said to last as long as two springs.
(Multi-National Forces – Iraq, Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable, Aswat al-Iraq, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse)