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Things are going great in Mosul. Hold on, that pic is from 1932, 70 years before launch of U.S. nation building effort. Credit: WikiCommons.

A few months back I wrote a story here about how media chatter on an impending attack on Mosul was highly misleading and that an assault on the city before the election was unlikely. Whenever the attack took place, I wrote, it would be difficult to succeed now because the Iraqi Army didn’t have the necessary troops to win the fight.

I was wrong about the first point but it still looks like long-term prospects for Mosul are grim, despite media accounts that say the U.S. and Iraqi attack is going smashingly. Soon after the campaign kicked off, excited dispatches reported that Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces had pushed their way to the city’s outskirts.

Today, a CNN dispatch carried the headline, “In push for Mosul, US coalition pummeling ISIS, and we learn — mostly from coalition spokesman Colonel John C. Dorian — that things are going smashingly. “In the last four weeks coalition forces have hammered ISIS targets with 4,000 bombs, artillery strikes and missiles” and “killed hundreds of fighters,” CNN breathlessly reports. Meanwhile, bomb-laden ISIS vehicles are being destroyed and the terrorist group’s tunnels are being destroyed.

Needless to say, this isn’t just a military operation, it’s a humanitarian one. “The Iraqi security forces have been very deliberate and very careful in order to protect civilian life,” Dorian told CNN. “As a member of the coalition I find that level of effort inspiring and I hope that all Iraqis are proud of this level of effort.”

Iraqi security forces are being very careful to protect civilian life? Un huh, sure. Also, if things are going so well, why are we hearing about a “tactical pause” in the attack, which can generally be translated as a “stalled slog”?

From what I hear, things aren’t going quite as smoothly as the media has been reporting. The Pentagon and the Kurds believed it was too early for an attack on Mosul, but the Obama administration — almost certainly for reasons related to pre-election PR to help Hillary — overruled them.

The first Iraqi Army division that entered the city made mistakes and suffered heavy losses. Troops scattered and abandoned expensive U.S. supplied weaponry. We keep hearing reports that ISIS troops are trapped, but until now they can still get into and out of Mosul.

A month after the operation started, Iraqi forces had pushed ISIS out of one-third of the eastern side of Mosul. “They are yet to enter the northern or southern neighborhoods of Mosul, where more than one million people are thought to be living,” this story from today notes.

The Mosul offensive will ultimately succeed — ISIS fighters are outnumbered by about 100,000 to 5,000 — but it’s going to take time and the city will be destroyed, as were previously recaptured Fallujah and Ramadi, where there’s nothing left but rubble. And when Mosul is captured, it could take years to clean out ISIS’s tunnel network.

So unfortunately, the reports from the front we’re seeing are almost certainly highly optimistic. It seems that journalists still haven’t learned that cheerleading leads to bad reporting, whether you’re covering political campaigns or war.

 

 

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