As coalition forces advance on Mosul Islamic State launch counterattacks in an attempt to prolong the fighting so that the factions within the coalition turn on one another.
Despite the gains made by coalition forces in their advance on Mosul, Islamic State continues to fight back. The nature of the attacks in Rutba and Kirkuk suggest that Islamic State’s military command structure remains intact and is attempting to slow the assault.
Counterattacks may, in the short-term, act as a diversionary mechanism against the assault on Mosul but they also serve in the long-term as a means by which to split the Coalition’s disparate forces, which have internally opposing objectives. In response to the attack on Kirkuk, Kurdish forces have forced some Arab inhabitants to leave the city. If Islamic State can lure Shia fighters into the attack on Mosul, then, even if it loses the military war, it can continue to win in the political sphere by framing itself as a protector of Sunni Muslims.
Kyle Orton, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, said;
“The apparent movement of several hundred Islamic State fighters into Mosul demonstrates the group’s determination to protract the battle in the hope of allowing the contradictions in the Coalition to assert themselves.
“The Kurds in Kirkuk have already expelled some Arab inhabitants in response to the attacks, and this provides the political material that the Islamic State can use to revive itself. If the Shia militias can be drawn into this offensive, then the Islamic State will be well on the way to achieving a long-term political victory, even as it endures a short-term military setback.”