Over the last 24 hours the Iraqi army has reduced the tiny ISIS controlled pocket in the Old City of Mosul further in size, that it now spans just one square mile, and that it is now about to be cut in half.
Reports a few days ago spoke of no more than 300 ISIS fighters still alive and fighting in the city. With all of them completely trapped in a warren of streets in a tiny area of Mosul’s Old City the end is likely to be only days away.
Contrary to claims which are occasionally made, ISIS fighters have been known to surrender to the Syrian and Iraqi militaries in the past. However the fanatically minded ISIS fighters still resisting in Mosul’s Old City will doubtless go on fighting to their deaths, which they must know are now just days away.
A day or so ago many of them killed themselves in a wave of suicide bomb attacks on the surrounding Iraqi troops. As the end approaches those who are left will probably also choose this way out. Suicide bombing – once seen by ISIS and other Jihadi groups as the weapon which would deliver them victory – is now a sign of their despair.
On a related issue, following the destruction by ISIS of the Great Mosque of Mosul a few days ago, I speculated that the order for the destruction of the mosque may have come from ISIS’s leader – Ibrahim Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi – himself and that the destruction of the mosque was therefore strong evidence that the Russian claim that he may have been killed in an air strike is wrong, and that he is probably still alive.
There was one point which did give me pause. This was whether the ISIS fighters in Mosul were still in contact with ISIS’s leadership and with Al-Baghdadi himself. I speculated that despite being completely cut off in Mosul they probably were
Though the communications of the remaining ISIS fighters trapped in Mosul with ISIS’s leadership are doubtless sporadic and being monitored, I still think that before taking such a step they would have sought final authorisation from ISIS’s leadership – probably through a coded message – and that this would have required the agreement of Al-Baghdadi himself.
Probable confirmation of this came today in the form of a video published by Amaq, ISIS’s ‘news agency’, which claims to show ISIS fighters in Mosul’s Old City shooting back at the surrounding Iraqi troops.
Whilst it is possible that this video is faked – perhaps shot in some other location or made some time ago – it looks to me genuine (as with all Amaq videos I will not provide a link). If so then it shows that some sort of communication between ISIS and its fighters in Mosul still takes place, making it possible for Amaq to upload videos made in Mosul, and Al-Baghdadi to send orders to the remaining ISIS fighters still fighting there.
Though the defeat of ISIS in Mosul has taken too long to destroy the credibility of the group, it will release large numbers of battle experienced Iraqi troops whom the Iraqi government will doubtless redeploy to the ISIS infested areas of western Iraq bordering eastern Syria.
That will significantly increase the number of Syrian and Iraqi troops in this area, where the Syrian and Iraqi militaries are increasingly cooperating with each other, and where ISIS is expected to make its last stand.
That should hasten the end of the war against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, and perhaps globally as well.