The Mosul offensive is “on or ahead of schedule,” the U.S. military said this morning after word began spreading that Baghdad’s allied forces to the east (largely Peshmerga) have paused their operations to clear mines and consolidate their gains from the past 36 or so hours. And those initial gains have been rapid, bringing them to within 12 km of Mosul. Indeed, if what Iraqi officials have said is true—that anywhere from nine to 20 villages have been retaken from the east, south and southeast—the advance clocked in at about 10 km, Vice News’ Aris Roussinos writes.
A bit more on the pause: “We are just holding our positions,” Pesh Col. Khathar Sheikhan told AP. “The Iraqi army will now advance past our arenas of control.”
With an operation as large as this, it’s hard to imagine fighting suddenly coming to a 100-percent halt. Indeed, ISIS is reportedly putting up a fierce fight near Hamdaniyah, some 20 miles southeast of Mosul.
The Pesh may have underestimated ISIS, losing a village after initially declaring it free of militants. “There were less than 10 Daesh in the village” of Shakouli on the Khazir frontline, a Peshmerga officer told the Telegraph. “But they were running around like rats in and out of tunnels and surprising us with suicide attacks and snipers.”
For what it’s worth: “The Telegraph saw around 15 US special forces on the ground [around Shakouli], watching the battle through binoculars and calling out coordinates for the rocket attacks.”
Local reports in Iraq say that some ISIS fighters have already begun fleeing Mosul for positions toward Syria.
And on that note, Russia’s foreign minister promised a military and political” response, should ISIS fighters try to flee to Syria.
Turkish media walked back an earlier report this morning saying Turkey’s warplanes were giving a hand to the Mosul operation. More on that reversal, here.
A sense of what’s to come: Take a look inside one of the ISIS-made tunnels, a 4-meter-deep product reportedly intended for sniper fire and for cover from airstrikes.
On the tech side of the Mosul fight, a variety of digital tech tools are intended to give coalition forces a heads-up on some of the many dangers around the proverbial bend, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports.
For some good news: Kurdish Rudaw News has the story of an “Iraqi soldier reunited on the Qayyara war front with his two sisters and parents, whom he had not seen in two years.”
Oh, by the way, from Reuters: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and explosives expert Fawzi Ali Nouimeh were in Mosul, according to senior Kurdish official Hoshiyar Zebari, who cited “solid” intelligence reports, indicating that the group would put up significant resistance.
In two days, France will host talks on what lies ahead for Mosul. “US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter will be among 13 ministers at the talks, an aide to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said,” AFP reports this morning, noting that French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wants to move on Raqqa, Syria, sooner than later.
That happens to be something very much on U.S. President Barack Obama’s mind, too, according to the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin.
The big concern: “There’s an imperative to start moving on Raqqa,” said one senior administration official. “We need to get after these guys, because if we don’t they are going to hit us and our partners in a fairly dramatic way.” More here.
Obama’s big gamble in Mosul is perhaps the most high-profile test of his “doctrine of aiding other countries militarily rather than leading every fight,” The New York Times reports. More on Obama’s evolving legacy and the stakes of Mosul, here.
Assad’s allied forces got a few strikes in on Aleppo this morning before the start of a unilateral 8-hour cease-fire announced by Russia on Monday. Bloomberg: “Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian and Syrian air forces stopped strikes on the northern city, where 250,000 residents are trapped in rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, at 10 a.m. Damascus time on Tuesday, according to an emailed statement. The announcement, opening the way to a humanitarian pause planned for Thursday, came a day before a meeting in Berlin between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterparts from France, Germany and Ukraine to discuss efforts to resolve the war in eastern Ukraine.”
Moscow’s announcement accompanied a follow-on offer to allow rebels to flee. But of course, rebels said they have no interest in that deal.
About those strikes: at least six family members were killed from an early morning strike at 3:30 a.m. local, the White Helmets reported this morning.
In other ceasefire news, a 72-hour deal has been reached on the war in Yemen, The Wall Street Journal reports this morning. The deal sets the start date for the cease-fire just before midnight this evening. “If it goes ahead as planned, the cease-fire would be the first significant lull in fighting since an extended round of talks in Kuwait broke down in August. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday called for an immediate cease-fire.” More here.
From Defense One
The Apps They Carried: Software, Big Data, and the Fight for Mosul // Tech Editor Patrick Tucker: A variety of digital tech tools aim to provide coalition forces some sense of the dangers around the next bend.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1860, the Second Opium War ended with a treaty that legalized opium in China and forcibly opened more Chinese ports to foreign trade. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: email@example.com.)
How Mike Flynn went from the Pentagon’s intelligence chief to “Donald Trump’s national security alter ego.” Two years after retiring as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the former three-star general is out campaigning against Hillary Clinton, leading angry crowds in chants of “Lock her up.” James Kitfield traces his journey for Politico, here.
Kitfield has long followed Flynn’s career; read interviews from 2013 (“DIA’s Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn talks about his mission to reform military intelligence and why al-Qaeda is metastasizing”) and 2014, here:
Surveying the U.S. electorate: “About three-quarters or more” of Americans trust the military to act in the public interest, a new Pew poll says.
Stockholm syndrome in Nigeria? 100 Chibok girls “refuse to leave” Boko Haram, AP reports from Abuja. “Nigeria’s government is negotiating the release of another 83 of the Chibok schoolgirls taken in a mass abduction two-and-a-half years ago, but more than 100 others appear unwilling to leave their Boko Haram Islamic extremist captors, a community leader said Tuesday. The unwilling girls may have been radicalized by Boko Haram or are ashamed to return home because they were forced to marry extremists and have babies, chairman Pogu Bitrus of the Chibok Development Association told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.” More here.
In the Asia-Pacific, Vietnam’s defense ministry just gave its approval for joint patrols with the U.S. in the South China Sea.
Thanks to internal politics, Australia’s joint patrolling with the U.S. in the SCS may not happen, if this WSJ op-ed is to be taken at face value. Canberra’s Labor party “has lately been caught up in scandals over Chinese influence-peddling, with rising star Senator Sam Dastyari resigning from the leadership last month after he accepted gifts from Chinese interests and endorsed Beijing’s position on the South China Sea.”
Where to go from here: “Canberra’s decision can’t be separated from Washington’s ambivalence. As U.S. officials encouraged Australia to step up, the Obama Administration authorized a mere three U.S. freedom of navigation patrols, all under the minimalist doctrine of “innocent passage” and after months of hand-wringing that undermined the intended signal of resolve. If the next U.S. President takes a more serious approach, it might inspire Canberra to do the same.” Read the rest, here.
The Stuxnet story has now taken down a 4-star, sort of. “James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, who served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before he retired in 2011… pleaded guilty Monday to a federal felony charge of lying to the FBI in a probe of a leak of classified information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program,” the Washington Post reported Monday. “The false statements charge carries a maximum prison term of five years. But under a plea agreement, both sides estimated that federal guidelines would call for a sentence of zero to six months. Each side also reserved the right to argue for a lower or higher sentence and acknowledged that Leon may depart from the guidelines at a sentencing set for Jan. 17.” More here.
Another retired U.S. 4-star—Gen. Martin Dempsey—was just made an honorary British Knight. Military.com has that story, here.
Lastly today: a “giant drone war game” is coming to Scotland. Breaking Defense: “The US Navy needs to get better at hunting sea mines. The Royal Navy needs to get better at robots. So the two fleets are joining forces off Scotland in what the Brits are calling ‘the largest demonstration of its type, ever,’ Unmanned Warrior 2016, with ‘more than 50 unmanned vehicles from over 40 organizations.’”
The Office of Naval Research is sending 10 systems to the games, including “seven directly related to mine warfare.” Their names include Slocum Gliders, Seahunter and a series of trials called “Hell Bay.” More here.