Fog of War Claims 21 Tribal Fighters in Mosul Campaign

U.S. military officials, Iraqi army announce joint investigation

The body of an Islamic State militant lays on the ground after a repelled attack from the militants by the Iraqi army, outside the town of Qayyarah, Tuesday Oct. 4 / AP
The body of an ISIS militant lays on the ground after a repelled attack from the militants by the Iraqi army, outside the town of Qayyarah, Tuesday Oct. 4 / AP
October 6, 2016

U.S. military officials and the Iraqi army have announced a joint investigation into a mistaken air strike that killed 21 tribal fighters and wounded seven in a village near the city of Qayara, 34 miles south of Mosul, according to Operation Inherent Resolve.

At midnight on Wednesday morning, ISIS fighters attacked Iraqi security forces in the area of Haj Ali, using four or more suicide bombers wearing women’s clothing. Three of the terrorists were killed but a fourth detonated his bomb and killed eight security forces personnel, according to Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jubouri, the Nineveh Operations Commander, speaking to Bas News. Ten terrorists were killed in the subsequent U.S.-led coalition air strikes, which reportedly were called in by Iraqi security forces.

After repelling the jihadists and killing four of them, the tribal fighters gathered in a house in the village to reorganize. Coalition aircraft bombed the house, which may have been occupied earlier by Islamic State terrorists.

The 21 victims of the strike were tribal fighters from the surrounding area led by Sheik Nezhan al-Sakhar al-Lehaibi of the Lehaib tribe and are part of a force of 700 fighters, according to staff reporters for Daesh Daily in Baghdad. The Iraqi army has allied with a composite force of 14,000 tribal fighters from several sectarian groups recruited for the Mosul campaign.

Canadian Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Dave J. Anderson of Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters by teleconference Thursday that "the Iraqis have proven time and again they can and will conduct complex and decisive operations and that they have the will to defeat [ISIS]."

Plans are being finalized for the liberation of ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, while shaping operations, force positioning, logistics, and ammunition, Anderson said, adding that the relentless employment of U.S.-led coalition strikes set the stage for success in Mosul.

"Following the inevitable liberation of Mosul, it will take an estimated 30,000 to 45,000 hold forces for such a large city, employing local police who will serve as the face of security for Iraq," Anderson said.

"We have stepped up our emphasis on police training and recruiting tribal forces, adding 5,000 local police and over 20,000 tribal fighters," the general noted.

The coalition says it conducted 14 airstrikes Wednesday on ISIS targets in Iraq, including six in Mosul, two south of Mosul in Qayara, one north of Mosul in Kasik, and five in Anbar Province.

By all accounts, the international forces encircling Mosul face a complex task of coordination, which increases the risk of friendly fire incidents.

To date, the U.S.-led coalition has trained 45,000 Iraqi security forces, Gen. Anderson said, equaling some 12 trained brigades, which he said includes anywhere from 800 to 1,600 troops. These are force numbers for the whole country.

There is still no unified commander for the Mosul-theater combined forces of at least 30,000 Iraqi regular army, the regional Kurdish army, tribal fighters, and 8,000 special advisers from NATO countries, as well as for air components from the U.S.-led coalition of 14 nations.

Separate from the U.S. coalition, Iran has contributed air strikes in northern Iraq as well.

Complicating matters, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is serving as acting minister of defense since the parliament’s ouster of former Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi on Aug. 25.

The battle space around Mosul includes Turkish ground forces manning the Zlikan military base at Bashiqa on Mosul’s eastern perimeter, which it has maintained for 20 years.

Islamic State terrorists have built concrete block barriers on the main roads leading out of Mosul’s eastern boundary in expectation of losing control of its neighborhoods near Bashiqa, according to Iraqi media reports.

ISIS military defenders also reportedly have sent reinforcements to Bashiqa to harden its positions in advance of the anticipated Mosul operations.

Living conditions for Mosul residents have become more stressful, according to Ali Sada, who monitors all Iraqi media reports for Daesh Daily. Inside the city, Islamic State officials have been stopping drivers and forcing them to remove their numbered license tags and replace them with ISIS tags in a bid to discourage drivers from leaving the city, Daesh Daily reported. The terrorists also charge a fee for the transfer of tags, thus raising revenues. As a result, many drivers have stored their vehicles at home with a full tank of gas in anticipation of driving out of the city without the ISIS tags.

ISIS has continued to use grisly executions to punish residents accused of using their cell phones or computers to cooperate with the government of Iraq, Sumeria TV reported. At least 14 people were drowned Wednesday in metal cages in central Mosul, and eight were executed this way on Sept. 11, the TV channel reported, citing informed sources.

Food prices have gone up inside Mosul in anticipation of a long siege by the coalition forces, yet salaries for ISIS terrorists have been reduced to approximately $30 a month. Islamic State soldiers have resorted to looting fixtures at the University of Mosul and taking down construction materials at unfinished buildings and selling them at auctions for a fraction of their cost to raise cash.

Saad S. Khalis in Baghdad contributed to this report.