ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The battle to free the city of Mosul from the grip of the Islamic State will require as many as 30,000 soldiers and take as long as 10 months, a leading Kurdish military analyst has told Rudaw.
Colonel Masoud Salih, an instructor at Zakho Military Academy, said the city’s large size and a tough ISIS defense perimeter could make for one of the toughest, and longest, battles against terrorism in Iraq since 2003.
He said the impending battle is expected to take place in June with Peshmarga forces acting as auxiliary units to the Iraqi Army.
Without proper training in urban warfare, he added, the Iraqi army will struggle to dislodge the militants. Mosul fell to ISIS on June 9 after the Iraqi army deserted the city without serious confrontations.
A successful attack on Iraq’s second-largest city, as explained by Salih, must be accomplished in three stages.
“The first stage has started, which is surveillance, information gathering, training the Iraqi army and arming the [local Sunni] tribes,” he said.
The second stage, Salih continued, would be: “Analyzing information, identifying the objectives, planning military operations, setting the Zero hour and cutting the supply lines of ISIS.
“The third stage would be to commence the operation from three directions, east, south, and the west of Mosul.”
Each front in the attack on Mosul, according to Salih, would require 10,000 soldiers., with each group divided into 8,000 active fighters and 2,000 reinforcements. He believes strongly the battle will be lengthy, possibly 10 months.
Some commanders think differently, however, and believe ISIS will soon collapse.
One military officer estimates ISIS has only some 12,000 fighters in Mosul. The officer, who chose to remain unnamed, said rumors of as many as 30,000 ISIS militants in Mosul are simply ISIS propaganda.
Yet Salih was quick to point out why the fight would take so long.
“ISIS has been digging trenches around Mosul for quite some time, also, suicide bombers, and IEDs on the roadsides would slow down the military movements. Urban warfare is difficult and there are also civilians living in the city and the military goals are not clear yet.
“These factors will make the battle last longer,” said Salih.
Regarding the role of the Peshmerga forces, Salih said, “The Peshmerga forces will not participate in the ground operations of liberating Mosul, they will act as an auxiliary force that would support the Iraqi army with heavy weapons. They will also protect the residential areas of the minorities in Bartilla, Hamdaniya, Bashika, etc.”
Salih was among the officers sent to the US for training after 2003 and is aware of many facets of the new Iraqi Ministry of Defense. His experience has given him insight into why the US has not armed Peshmarga forces directly.
“First, the US does not want to change the balance of forces in Iraq,’ he said.
“Second, the Kurdistan Region still does not have an organized and united professional army.”
Even so, Salih said the time to make military preparations for the battle of Mosul is running out.
“All the signs show that the battle will begin in June, and basically this war needs six months of preparation, which means only four months left.”