Tag Archives: ISIS

ISIS Stronghold: Battle of Mosul… Story by Isaac Solly

In Iraq, government forces are continuing on an offensive to retake Mosul, the second largest city in the country. Occupied by ISIS since June of 2014, the city is of great strategic and symbolic importance for either side of the conflict.

In November, ISIS fighters had been forced from the neighborhoods surrounding the city and into street conflict. Advances slowed down from there on, but have been largely successful. The coalition forces vastly outnumber the militants holding the city, yet each side has lost around 2,000 wounded or killed.

On Jan. 14, Iraqi forces retook the university on the eastern bank, which was being used as an ISIS base of operations. This, along with US air strikes disabling the militants supply routes across the Tigris River is building pressure on the east bank defenders—only two

Iraqi Special Forces... A soldier displays his weapon near the recently recaptured Mosul University. Photo By: www.cbc.ca, Ahmed Saad
Iraqi Special Forces... A soldier displays his weapon near the recently recaptured Mosul University. Photo By: www.cbc.ca, Ahmed Saad

bridges are ISIS controlled, and both are somewhat disabled. However, this is sure to stall the offensive well into February in order to merely clear out the east bank of the Tigris.

The offensive is long overdue—it has been over two and a half years since Mosul’s capture. Iraq’s military was severely weakened in 2014, and needed reorganization. Not only this, but the government was forced to prioritize removing the threat to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Last June saw the government’s recapture of Fallujah, and gave Iraq the initiative to move on Mosul.

Kurdish “Peshmerga” forces are also in the process of advancing towards Tal Afar, to the west of Mosul. Tal Afar is infamous for staunch supporters of ISIS and the local extremism. These attacks divert ISIS militants from reinforcing Mosul, and essentially cuts off the 50km-wide area from other ISIS held territory. Kurdish military forces are semi-autonomous and act in limited conjunction with other Iraqi troops. Kurds are also backed by the US, and have fought ISIS since August of 2014.

Since mid-October, just over 148,000 civilians have fled their homes in Mosul, and humanitarians warn that number could reach up to a million displaced. There are also sporadic water shortages in parts of eastern Mosul, and widespread trauma cases. The situation is also deteriorating in ISIS controlled western-Mosul and along the corridor to Tal Afar, with food shortages and limited electricity. Over 750,000 civilians are present in these areas.

ISIS has prepared multiple barricades along the entrances to western Mosul, from both the south and on bridgeheads, and also clearing several buildings in order to gain preferable line of sight. There are also staunch pro-ISIS neighborhoods in the western bank,

A Slow Grind... Iraqi forces seize control of bridges and University in east Mosul, but considerable militants remain. Photo By: www.bbc.com, HIS Conflict Monitor
A Slow Grind… Iraqi forces seize control of bridges and University in east Mosul, but considerable militants remain. Photo By: www.bbc.com, HIS Conflict Monitor

and a denser population than the larger east. These factors guarantee a long struggle forwards, and ensure that ISIS is unlikely to be rooted out until mid-spring.

Should Iraq recapture its second most populous city, the problems would not end there. There is still a sharp divide between the Sunni and Shia populations in the country, and Mosul’s liberation would only highlight these internal problems. However, it would immensely diminish ISIS influence in Northwest Iraq, and set up the stage for a final push into ISIS-controlled Syria.

What Really Happened?… Article by Mack Jastle

What Really Happnened? Story by Mack Jastle

In light of the recent memorial service held for the victims of the Paris terror attacks that took place two weeks ago, I think that now is as good a time as any to look back on the attacks and what they mean for the world at large.

First, an overview of the attacks.

On November 13, 2015, in a nearly simultaneous attack involving three teams of extremists, Paris was hit by multiple attacks, shootings, and suicide bombings leaving 130 dead and hundreds injured.  It was the worst terror attack Europe had faced in over a decade.  Some of the targets hit included the Bataclan concert hall, where dozens were cut down by gunmen wielding Kalashnikov-type assault rifles.  Eighty-nine people were reported to have died there, with another 99 in critical condition.

The second deadliest attack of the night occurred at the La Belle Equipe bar in the 11th district.  Witnesses reported a black Seat pulling up to the terrace of the café, and two men then opening fire on the terrace.  Nineteen died in that shooting, with another nine people critically injured.

A map displaying times and locations of the attacks. Diagram by bbc.co.uk.
A map displaying times and locations of the attacks. Diagram by bbc.co.uk.

French president Francois Hollande promised vengeance against ISIS for the attacks, stating that “we will be ruthless.” Many nations around the world have echoed this sentiment, pledging support to help destroy ISIS and their extremist agenda.

However, France wasn’t the only one attacked that week.  The day previous, the city of Beirut in Lebanon was attacked by two suicide bombers who killed 43 people and injured hundreds more.  A surviving member of the extremist force claimed to have been recruited by ISIS, and ISIS later publically took credit for the attacks.

All this violence and bloodshed follows in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January, which left eleven dead and more injured.

In the wake of such bloodshed, it’s obvious something has to be done.  But what?  For many, the solution seems to be denying Syrian refugees asylum, on the grounds that there could be terrorists moving among them and thus into these countries.  This includes our state of Idaho.

While at first this might seem like a logical stance to take, the scariest part of it all is that it might just be exactly what ISIS wants.  In a ten page editorial published on the Islamic State’s online magazine, the author describes the grey zone most Muslims inhabit between “the caliphate and the infidel.”

By orchestrating these attacks and pushing the world into chaos, ISIS is causing many countries to seriously debate whether it’s worth harboring these refugees.  The more stringent our vetting processes become, the more hostile we become towards these hapless refugees, the more ISIS wins.

Despite the attacks’ relative disconnectedness from the refugee crisis, what many nations and individuals have taken away from these attacks is that the refugees should be turned elsewhere, that they should be someone else’s problem.  The more this happens, the easier it becomes for these people to look at ISIS and say “You know….these guys don’t seem all that bad.”

ISIS is not a threat we can just bomb out of existence.  It’s not all one nationality or one religion’s fault.  We need to be aware that these refugees are innocent, and that denying them asylum or treating them poorly will only hurt us.

Surprisingly, France seems to acknowledge this point.  President Hollande stated that France would continue to accept thousands of refugees, as it was their ‘humanitarian duty” to shelter them.

The world was ready to stand with France when they got hit by the attacks.  Will it support this viewpoint even after the attacks cast doubt on the refugees?

Only time will tell.