|Iraqi police forces moving on Mosul airport (Reuters)|
On February 23 the Iraqi forces (ISF) attacked Mosul airport and the Ghazlani base next door. First the Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division set off from Abu Saif and took the town of Yarmouk, and then attacked Mosul airport, finding little resistance. Tanks from the army’s 9th Division supported them. On a separate axis, the Golden Division joined by the Al-Abbas Division of the Hashd took the town of Tal Rayan outside of Mosul that the Islamic State had been using as a sniper and mortar base, and then moved onto the Ghazlani base attacking it from two directions. ISF officers and several reporters declared the airport free, but the Joint Operations Command announced only 50% was under control. The Operations Command also added that 85% of Ghazlani was in government hands.
U.S. led Coalition advisers were seen supporting the ISF during the day. One was reportedly wounded by the Mosul airport, but no nationality was given. The U.S. general in charge of the Central Command General Joseph Votel has told the press that there are 450 U.S. Special Forces taking part in the new Mosul campaign. These are forward deployed for the first time under President Trump’s new anti-IS policy.
For the first time the ISF entered west Mosul itself. Maamun, Kherba and Wadi Hajar were all attacked by the Golden and 16th Divisions with the first two being freed. The Islamic State was said to have put up a tough fight for these areas. Chechens, some of the group’s best fighters were reportedly involved.
The Iraqi forces are not only moving on a broad southern front, but are also in the west and going to add a northern one as well. In the west, units from the 9th, 15th and 16th Divisions along with the Al-Abbas Division are present. Elements of those three army divisions are supposed to move on the northwest sometime soon. This will put added pressure upon the Islamic State having to fight on multiple fronts. The ISF originally attempted to do this in its attack on west Mosul but poor coordination and novice units undermined the effort.
The flow of the displaced has shifted back to more people leaving rather than returning in Ninewa. According to the International Organization for Migration the number of people registering with the government and aid agencies went from 159,006 on January 26 to 161,730 on February 23. At the start of February more people were leaving camps and going back to Mosul and the surrounding towns. The reversal was due to a number of reasons. First, the new campaign has led to people leaving southern Mosul. Second, the constant IS attacks on east Mosul has driven civilians out. Third, stories of shortages and the lack of services and jobs have also made some people to reconsider going back. The number of displaced has always ebbed and flowed and there will likely be a decided increase as more of west Mosul is entered, followed by a decrease as more areas are freed and people start returning.
Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Salaheddin, Sinan, “US-backed Iraqi forces enter Mosul airport, military base,” Associated Press, 2/23/17
Adel, Loaa, "Elite militia leader killed in armed clashes with IS near Mosul," Iraqi News, 2/23/17
AIN, "Video..of the strongest confrontation with the popular crowd west of Tal Afar," 2/23/17
Airwars, "February 23rd 2017: New Mosul, Mosul, Nineveh province, Iraq"
BBC, “Mosul offensive: Iraqi forces recapture airport in bid to retake city,” 2/23/17
Bulos, Nabih, Abdul Illah, Haidar, “U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recapture Mosul airport and military base,” Los Angeles Times, 2/23/17
CBS News, “Fierce clashes as U.S.-backed forces battle ISIS for airport,” 2/23/17
Chappell, Bill, “Fight For Mosul Moves Westward And Centers On City’s Airport,” NPR, 2/23/17
Coles, Isabel and Kalin, Stephen, “Iraqi forces storm Mosul airport, military base,” Reuters, 2/23/17
Gordon, Michael, “Iraqi Forces Take Most of Mosul Airport in Push Against ISIS,” New York Times, 2/23/17
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #17 – Mosul Operations From 17 October to 23 February,” 2/23/17
Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: Feb. 23, 2017,” 2/23/17
Al Jazeera, “Iraqi forces take control of Mosul Airport,” 2/23/17
Neuhof, Florian, “Iraqi special forces capture Mosul airport from ISIL,” The National, 2/23/17
New Sabah, "The joint forces stormed Ghazlani camp south Mosul after controlling strategic areas," 2/22/17
Rudaw, “LIVE: Iraqi forces control more than half of Mosul airport,” 2/23/17
Shafaaq News, "Urgent..wounding a soldier from the international coalition during the battle of Mosul airport," 2/23/17
Smith, Alexander, “Iraqi Forces Recapture ISIS-Held Mosul Airport Under Fire: State TV,” NBC News, 2/23/17
World Bulletin, “Iraqi security forces storm ISIL-held Mosul airport,” 2/23/17
Xinhua, “Iraqi forces free Mosul airport from IS militants,” 2/23/17
- “Iraqi forces launch operation to retake Mosul airport, military base,” 2/23/17