The Washington Post reports that the US-backed Iraqi Security Forces are having a very hard time in the battle against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Iraqi Security Force soldiers spoke with Washington Post about the “competition” going on between the different units. Instead of working together, they chose to compete against each other while retaking various areas.
The soldiers say that this way of thinking has lead to very brash decisions being made. This creates danger for the lives of both the troops, and the civilians in the area. ISIS car bombers and snipers have become major threats, making it hard to make gains in Western Mosul, where the fight is getting worse.
In October 2016, the Iraqi operation to retake Mosul started. It’s been filled with one complication after the next since the start.
ISIS had nearly two years to dig into the city, heavily fortifying their defensive positions, and preparing suicide bomb vehicles. Nearly 1.5 million civilians were in the city before the battle began, now, 750,000 civilians remain in half of the city ISIS still controls after four months of nearly non-stop fighting.
Western mosul, which remains in ISIS hands, is far more densely populated by civilians. ISIS uses these civilians to form a human shield ring around their defensive position, rendering U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes less effective. The dense neighborhoods also have much narrower streets which don’t allow the Iraqi Security Forces to use their armored humvees. These humvees are the first line of defense against ISIS suicide car bombs, which wreak havoc on checkpoints.
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have loosened U.S. rules of engagement for the hundreds of U.S. special operators embedded with the Iraqi troops. Ground commanders no longer need to clear some artillery strikes with their commands to support ongoing high tempo operations.