Starting in mid-January Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began preparatory operations for the coming fight for Mosul. In January the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment joined the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Mosul. The 1-8 CAB is responsible for eastern Mosul and 3-3 ACR is responsible for western Mosul. These U.S. forces currently work with about 10,000 soldiers from the Iraqi 2nd Infantry Division, which recently regained full strength after units transferred to Baghdad in early 2007 as part of Fardh al-Qanoon returned. Another 10,000 Iraqi Police also operate in Mosul.
Coinciding with the ISF buildup, the Ninawa Operations Command (NOC) was established under Major General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq in mid-January. General Riyadh was previously commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division responsible for the Rusafa area in east Baghdad in the last year. The purpose of the NOC is to integrate the efforts of the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Border Security Forces and Iraqi Special Operations Forces operating in Ninawa. The NOC will also provide an Iraqi operational command to direct the coming fight for Mosul and a unified partner to work alongside Coalition Forces.
Mosul straddles the Tigris River and similar to Baghdad is split into western and eastern halves. The western half has been a stronghold for the Sunni insurgency since 2003 and an important sanctuary for AQI and the network’s finance, weapons, and foreign terrorist facilitation efforts. AQI has also pushed across the river to establish strongholds in the southeastern section of the city and to a lesser extent in the northeastern section as well.
Since mid-January Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have increased the tempo of operations in Mosul to shape the battlefield for the protracted fight that is likely to ensue in the coming months. Since the beginning of January Coalition Forces have killed and captured 142 individuals associated with AQI, a number of which have been more senior level leaders. On February 18th Coalition Forces captured the AQI military emir for Mosul. His identity has not been revealed yet. His capture provided a great deal of intelligence about AQI activities in Mosul and in particular provided actionable intelligence about the senior leader of the AQI network in the highly contested southeastern region of the city.
Coalition forces aggressively targeted the AQI network in southeastern Mosul for the last two months methodically targeting associated individuals and developing intelligence about the network as a whole. Then on February 27th the intelligence gathered from the overall AQI military emir in Mosul led Coalition Forces to the location of the AQI military emir for the southeastern region of the city, Abu Yasir al-Saudi, AKA Jar Allah. Jar Allah was a Saudi national who spent time fighting in Afghanistan before arriving in Iraq in August 2007 along with three other Saudis. Upon arriving in Iraq Jar Allah and his associates were sent to Mosul where they were to help supervise AQI activities in the city. They quickly became an important part of operations in Mosul and Jar Allah eventually took charge of the AQI network in the southeastern region of the city. Jar Allah was connected to the AQI senior leader for the northern Iraq networks and was an associate of Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
As the military emir for southeastern Mosul, Jar Allah was “a key operational leader” responsible for planning and conducting attacks across the city. Jar Allah’s network was responsible for the attack on Coalition Forces on January 28th that killed 5 soldiers in the Sumer neighborhood in southeastern Mosul. During this complex attack insurgents first fired on a Coalition patrol from a nearby mosque and then targeted the unit with an improvised explosive (IED) device. His network also constructed a large vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) using 5,000 pounds of explosives packed inside a truck painted to look like a Red Crescent food relief truck. Coalition forces found and cleared this VBIED on February 15th before it could be used. In addition to directing AQI’s operations in southeastern Mosul, Jar Allah was also involved in smuggling and kidnapping, and helped direct AQI’s foreign terrorist facilitation activities in the city.
The diagram above shows the AQI southeastern Mosul network that Jar Allah directed. As the diagram depicts this network was fairly sophisticated with multiple cells in charge of a variety of activities ranging from RPG, IED and anti-aircraft attacks to administration and operational security. Many of Jar Allah’s associates were also foreign nationals. Since the beginning of this year Coalition Forces have captured 8 members of this network and killed 4 others.
Since Jar Allah was killed Coalition Forces have continued to target the southeastern Mosul network. On March 2nd three associates of Jar Allah were detained. The following day Coalition Forces returned to the same area targeting a Jar Allah associate responsible for attacks against Coalition Forces, foreign terrorist facilitation, and a suicide bombing cell in the city. After coming under attack Coalition Forces engaged and killed 5 insurgents. On March 5th two more of Jar Allah’s associates were detained.
Operations like those against Jar Allah’s network in southeastern Mosul will continue as Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces spread out into a series of Combat Outposts that are currently in various stages of planning and construction around the city. The fight for Mosul will likely intensify as Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces shift from the preparatory operations that have been conducted in recent months to clearing operations in key neighborhoods. According to Coalition Forces, the fight for Mosul will be led primarily by Iraqis. It will likely be drawn out and proceed similar to the fight for Baghdad one year ago.