Iraq’s effort to consolidate areas south of Mosul looks like it is being reversed by a surprise ISIS counterattack over the weekend, with a large ISIS faction capturing several villages around Shirqat, and threatening to reclaim the town itself.
Shirqat, along the Tigris River, is just south of Qayara, the site of the key air base from which the invasion of Mosul is being organized, and the loss of Shirqat gives ISIS a foothold to attack Highway One, the key route through which supplies from the Mosul invasion are to come.
The move against Shirqat comes as a huge surprise, as ISIS was expelled from the area weeks ago, and was expected to dig in defensively around Mosul with the invasion believed to be weeks away. The push near Shirqat involved a large number of ISIS fighters, and apparently no one saw it coming.
ISIS has made similar efforts to divide its opponents’ attention elsewhere, particularly fighting against the Kurdish Peshmerga further north. It is unclear how well the Iraqi military will be able to respond to secondary attacks around the region.
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