The Mosul Offensive


Al Qaeda in Iraq’s area of operations as of December 2007. Dark red indicates operating areas, light red is transit routes. Mosul remains a hot spot, with the only ratline to Syria in operation. Click to view.

Just over one year after the surge officially began Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq. After al Qaeda has been driven from its havens in Baghdad and the surrounding belts regions, and most recently in Diyala, the city of Mosul has emerged as the latest battleground.

Al Qaeda is still is able to operate in Mosul, and maintains its only established supply line to Syria in the Mosul region, according to a December 2007 assessment of the terror group’s capabilities by Multinational Forces Iraq. “In … Mosul and the rest of Ninewa province we still have a very tough fight to go,” said Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said in a press briefing on Jan. 22, just one day prior to a major attack in the city.

After a rash of suicide bombings and the destruction of an al Qaeda weapons factory that led to the death of more than 40 civilians, the Iraqi government announced on Jan. 25 an offensive would be launched to drive al Qaeda from its northern haven.

“We have formed an operations centre in Ninewa (province) for a final war against Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the former (Saddam Hussein) regime,” Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Jan. 25. “Today our forces are moving towards Mosul. What we have planned in Ninewa will be final. It will be a decisive battle.”

The Iraqi forces committed to the Mosul operation have begun to arrive. “The first batches of Iraqi forces the government has promised to send to Ninewa have arrived and I am receiving them now as I speak,” Major General Riad Jalal Tawfiq told Voices of Iraq.

Tawfiq stated “infantry and armor corps [are being deployed to Mosul] and they are enough to vanquish al Qaeda” in the region. Elements of the 9th Iraqi Army Division, which has an armored component, are being deployed to Mosul, Tawfiq said. Helicopters and armor are being sent north, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. Infantry elements are also being redeployed from Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The Iraqi Interior Ministry also called for a new 3,000-man police brigade to be formed in the province.

While Tawfiq declined to provide the number of forces, past deployments of Iraqi forces indicate what may be committed to the Mosul offensive. Based on past operations where a rapid reaction force was needed, the Iraqi military is likely to deploy an armored brigade from the 9th Iraqi Army Division, augmented infantry of about brigade strength, an Iraqi National Police brigade, and an element Iraqi Special Operations Force. An additional battalion or two of US forces may be deployed to operate in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi military has demonstrated the capability to deploy such a reaction force over the past six months. The deployment in Mosul is preceded by deployments in Basrah, Diwaniyah, and Diyala, where the security situations dictated a need for additional forces.

The Mosul deployment highlights the growing capacity of the Iraqi command to plan, deploy, and support its forces on short notice. This is a capacity that was nearly nonexistent just one year ago when the surge began, and represents the future of operations in Iraq as US forces begin to draw down.

For more information on the development of the Iraqi Security Forces, see the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • mxpwr03 says:

    Often cited in the articles from this site, along with other sources, is the logistics capabilities, or lack their of in some instances, of the IA & INP. As far as this major operation goes, can anyone articulate the relative logistical difficulty compared to previous deployments and how well the IA & INP met the challenges?

  • I have noticed that before we launch an operation,we
    announce it,in effect telling the enemy what we are going
    to do and where.
    Is there some kind of strategy behind this(such as flushing out insurgents from the population to cut down on
    civilian casualties.)???

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    Tinman, a Hillary supporter, sent me the bit below the fold from Reason Magazine.
    He wrote:
    This is some interesting stuff. I’m more of a collectivist than you are and a lot about McCain’s point of view impresses me – mainly that he’s…

  • anand says:

    Baxter Greene, PM Maliki announced it publically for his own reasons. He has a right to do so.
    It looks like part of IA 2-9 Armored (T72 tanks) is headed to Mosul. mxpwr03, IA 2-9 has a C2 near C1 brigade support battalion (bsb.) It handles its own transport, supply and maintenance.
    However, to save costs, I am sure than MNC-I transported the tanks to Mosul (IA still lacks major tank transport capability.)
    A month ago, it was announced that 9th IAD would reach C1 for logistics, support, (transport, supply, maintenance) in 8 months. Evidence suggests that 9th IAD does a good job with these functions.
    The INP is not needed in Ninevah (although they will get 1 brigade longer term as part of the INP’s planned geographical dispersement.)
    Return BG Mouttaa all his combat battalions from elsewhere in Iraq, and he will take care of business. He killed Safi (the former AQ emir of Mosul) and a bunch of his henchmen in a gunfight with only two body guards by his side.
    I’ll repeat a prior comment I left:
    “Staff Brig Gen Moutaa Habeeb Jassim Jewab (who MND-N Commanding MG Hertling has described as amazingly charismatic) and his 2nd Iraqi Army Division are going to smash AQ in Mosul.
    After all, he has done it before:
    Go Moutaa! Go the 2nd Iraqi Army Division!”
    Colonel Twitty has described 2nd (Mosul and Eastern Ninevah) and 3rd IAD (Western Ninevah including Tal Afar) as two of the best military formations he has ever seen (in any country’s military.) In my view, they are the two highest quality divisions in the IA at the division level at this time (1st IAD is very good at the bde and btn level, but has been split up to fight in different parts of Iraq and as a result does not fight as well at the division level, the 4th IAD use to be arguably the best division in Iraq but it is now being split into two divisions and in the process of being upgraded, 8th IAD has lost 3-8 {the new IA 1-14} and is still primarily Shia in composition.)
    For a breakdown of BG Mouttaa (2nd IAD) and MG Kirshad’s (3rd IAD) forces see:
    Upgrade Mouttah’s and Kirshad’s scout company to bn strength, return their bns to them and they are more than capable of taking care of Ninevah.
    I suspect that Kirshad (3rd IAD) gets a lightly armored cavalry (wheeled mech) brigade. Maybe 2nd or 3rd IAD get a tracked wheel bn the way 11th IAD have.
    I wonder who becomes Commanding General for the new Ninevah Operations Center?
    What is Major General Riad Jalal Tawfiq’s position?

  • anand says:

    mxpwr03, the IA is weak at corp, army level logistics and support:
    The RSUs (as opposed to the division level BSUs that are operating effectively in some cases) are not functioning as well as they should. Part of this is paper-work/bureaucracy. (Because of corruptions scandals at the MoD, all requisition distributions require substantial oversight and many levels of approval) part a reluctance to share power and authority by ISC officers (they want to retain micro control over their piece of the overall pie.), part is the significant challenge of fighting a war with involving 500 K soldiers with only $10 billion in GoI appropriations a year. {My suspicion is that ISF might get $12 billion of the $49 billion 2008 GoI budget versus the $10 billion that is publically stated. I certainly hope so.}

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Baxter Greene
    – The intel and prep for this has been in works for months according to MND-N. They announced it when the major units started moving, since that is not somthing you can hide…
    – MG Riyad is the CG Ninawa Operational Command.
    – 8th is probably spliting to augment south Baghdad.
    – They need to introduce the INP to Mosul, after all, internal security is a police lead function. The IA is primary for external security…
    – And be carefull of your suppositions on 3IAD, they are using tracked vehicles (M113) for route clearance plus the 3rd is a traditional elite heavy Division in IA linage…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    The RSUs and National Depots at Taji are in the process of a four-fold increase in size.
    Also the Divisional BSUs and MTRs are being augmented with Maintenance battalions.
    Four IA Maintenance schools have opened since Aug07 and the Taji Depots are rapidly expanding into Army level Sustaninment Bde and Maintenance Bde (with own advanced training programs seperate from the schools).
    The IA’s stated goal is to be doing all of their own maintenance without contractors by end-2008. Contractors are expensive and this is jobs for thier people.
    That will make the IA more independent in maintenance than the USA. We are stuck with congressionally mandated contractors that charge civilian rates (an arm and a leg) for the work that soldiers used to do just fine thank you…

  • jeandon says:

    This is good news. What’s up with the famously independent and competent Kurds, and their vaunted Peshmerga Fighters? Do they want to allow the mass-murderers to move in and establish themselves in ‘Kurdistan’? How about their connections with Syrian Kurds across the border in Northern Syria? Can the Syrian Kurds attack the Al Queda supply line coming out of Syria, or oppose the Syrian writ and army in thelr area?
    As far as announcing military plans to the enemy, does this become a kind of coordinated dance where Al Queda goes to ground, or retreats, in a timely way during the announced victorious offensive, then reappear later? How about some pincer or hammer and anvil operations to entrap Al Queda and hold and eliminate them in place while attacking them from two, or more, sides?

  • DJ Elliott says:

    They are not announcing them early. They announce when it becomes obvious. You can’t hide multi-Bde deployments. The convoys are obvious…
    As to the Peshmerga,
    if the Iraqi Parliment ever passes the budget,
    two Divisions of KRG transfer to the IA as part of the deal funding them.
    The longer the politicians argue, the more delay in adding those 25,000 troops to the Iraqi Army…

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 02/01/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • anand says:

    Remember that 2nd and 4th IAD started out as Northern primarily Kurdish national guards.
    DJ, I agree that 3rd IAD will be upgraded to something. It is along the Syrian border and Syria is its medium term focus.

  • anand says:

    Many Kurdish Iraqis serve in the Ninevah and At Tamin provincial IP.

  • martino says:

    Most battles are fought with the best of what you have in hand at the time, not with everything you want. But it seems the IA and MNF are getting some very good kills and I am impressed with the IA’s success so far. With every day that passes and every successful mission under their belts, I look forward to them doing great things. Iran can’t like what they are seeing out of this. The IA grows stronger every day while Iran’s forces are relegated to hiding in rat lines and sneaking around like AQI just to plant IEDs and supply the benchwarmers. God’s speed, IA.

  • mxpwr03 says:

    Thanks for the info anand.

  • @thepointyend says:

    jeandon – There is nothing wrong with the vaunted Pesh. They are here in large numbers in the 2nd IA Div, although BG Mouta’a is a Sunni Arab. Unfortunately, many of the local citizens of Mosul see the IA as Pesh, and therefore as a near-foreign Army. Hence, the Janzili explosion has been blamed on them (or the CF) by numerous entities within Iraq – a message that resounds well with the people of Mosul.
    Hope they fix the oceanic fiber soon – comms here are sucking hard right now… hence, the lack of info lately, Bill.

  • @thepointyend says:

    …as to the arrival of more troops, I haven’t seen anything yet on the incorporation of additional forces in the city. Some troops were already being repositioned from 3rd Bde, 2IA (in the south) when Zanjili happened. I did see LTG Riyadh on Al Mosulliya TV inspecting a line of armored vehicles being hauled in on flat beds yesterday. I’ve only had contact with him once and he seems like a sharp fellow. He certainly is famed for his command of the 9th IA Div. Some of the IA here, however, look upon him with a more jaundiced eye, seeing him as trying to apply Baghdad solutions to Moslowi problems. Hopefully, their cynicism will prove unfounded. But I’ve found they generally get things right, even on first blush. Maybe that’s because some of them have lived here their entire lives.

  • anand says:

    Thanks for the info @thepointyend. Do you know who LTG Riyadh’s deputy Mosul Operations Command (MOC) Commander will be? Will it be BG Mouttah or MG Kirshad (3rd IAD)?
    Any thoughts on how capable Mouttah is? Do Mosulese like him? Do they respect him? Do they know who he is?

  • @thepointyend says:

    anand – I don’t know that he has designated either as a deputy at this point. I do know that he’s pulled elements out of 2 Bde, 2 Div to form a staff and comes with an ad hoc MiTT. Mouta’a would be the logical choice since only 2 Div is in Mosul proper. 3 Div works the western desert and border areas. Mouta’a is out in public a lot, and is an Arab so my guess is that he is better liked than many here, but the Ministry apparently isn’t keen on him – they have yet to promote him to MG, the rank authorized by his position.
    I’ll see what I can dig up on the NOC’s organization and get back when the ‘net gods permit.

  • @thepointyend says:

    The NOC deputy Cdr is MG Haynee (phonetically spelled, of course). Apparently, he dropped by my locale today – I missed him while out working another mission.

  • anand says:

    Thanks for your info @thepointyend. And thank you for your service. I look forward to continue learning from you.
    I certainly hope that the ISF and GoI perform well; so that they:
    1) crush AQ
    2) give all Iraqis a big win
    3) allow all our brave GIs to come home to the warm welcome and gratitude they deserve.
    I am scared to ask you information for fear of getting you into trouble. Please do not answer anything that might not be appropriate to answer.
    {I would ask you about how good the local BSUs/MTRs are doing in supporting the local IA, as well as how you rate the RSU that supports Ninevah? For the time being at least, it appears that maintenance, support and transport will be primarily a division level function through the BSU (and transport through the MTR), rather than at the Bde level. I am also curious how well the IA engineers and EODs are doing. Each IA bde’s brigade special troop battalion-bstb-includes one EOD company and one combat engineer company. The 2nd and 3rd IAD are also building one construction engineering bn each at the division level. I would also like to ask how the local IA (2nd and 3rd IAD in the case of Ninevah) compare to our GIs.}

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    It would be great if the IA could do this job alone, without US help, but i do not see it happening. Without endangering op-sec, wat US formations will be participating? I have to think there will be an armored BCT, some lite infantry BCT’s. Who will they be? There will be airstrikes, and there will have to be FAC’s on the ground, calling in targets. Will the 101st be involved? A Marine contingent? I guess more will be revealed in time.


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