Iraqi officials presented the invasion of Mosul as a matter of inevitability. Bragging about being well ahead of schedule early on in the invasion of the major city, their 50,000+ fighters were seen as simply overwhelming for ISIS’ defenses, even given months to set up obstacles and tunnels around the area.
It’s not working out that way. Six weeks in, the Iraqi special forces have managed to reach the outskirts of the city itself, where there has been tense fighting. They claim to continue to advance, albeit at a snail’s pace, but these small special forces are not an indicator of the overall battle.
Rather, the ordinary military units are still stalled far outside of the city, unable to handle even the limited resistance they’ve seen that far away. Commanders are blaming inexperience and saying that most of the troops aren’t properly armed for urban warfare.
It’s not like urban warfare is a surprise in invading Iraq’s second largest city, however, and while the failures underscore Iraq’s military limits, they also suggest profound mistakes in the US-led planning of the invasion.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi says that six months is the “maximum time cap” for occupying Mosul. While that seemed like a huge amount of time when the offensive began, and officials insisted it was deliberately long just to seem safe, the lack of progress is now making this long time-frame seem more realistic.