The preliminary part of the assault on Mosul has proceeded well, which is to be welcomed. Nevertheless Islamic State are likely to have concentrated their defensive capacity on the city itself. We may not be in a position to gage the level of that resistance for some weeks.
Iraqi forces have advanced ahead of schedule, and the Kurdish Peshmerga have also made numerous gains. Nevertheless, the notion that Mosul will fall easily is premature. Numerous suicide bombers have already been deployed against coalition forces, indicating Islamic State fighters’ willingness to die in service of the caliphate. Within Mosul the defence will be far more organised, may well involve the use of chemical weapons, and will almost certainly involve the deployment of civilians as human shields.
Research Fellow Kyle Orton said: “In its first seventy-two hours the Mosul operation has taken ten villages and 75 square miles of territory from the Islamic State. These are welcome gains.
“They are also somewhat peripheral. Though they came with a lot of fanfare because they are after the official start of operations, they are essentially a continuation of the shaping operations that have been going on for many months.
“Though the Islamic State mobilised a dozen suicide bombers on the first day of the operation, its resistance has been uneven in a conventional sense, and the real test of the organisation – its capability and intent – will not be evident until the assault on the city proper begins.”