Monday 31 October 2016

More Mosul.....

Real news

I'm running behind the curve on the battle as it develops. However, here are some interesting things to note about how the fighting is going.

1. Bait and switch

Immediately prior to the offensive starting the northern and eastern flanks for Mosul were held predominantly by Peshmerga forces. They have been historically under trained and under armed. Much work has been done on both fronts recently but there was a general consensus that they were not going to spearhead the assault on Mosul, not least because leaving the Kurds in control of the city would be politically inconvenient.

Smart money, including mine, was that ISF would drive straight up the corridor from the south along the Tigris valley. This is partly because ISF are on the end of a long supply line from Baghdad but also because it allows them to use the full force of their regular army.

It is now clear that on 17 October ISF switched significant forces including CTS and US SF with tank support (IA) as well as US Apache attack helicopters to the eastern flank across the Tigris. 

ISW reports:
"The CTS’s positioning in Kurdish terrain is one of the results of a U.S.-brokered agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Government in August and will set the CTS up to breach Mosul’s city limits from the northeast."
There appear to be around 100 US SF engaged with ISF and Peshmerga both as advisors and JTACs.

2. The Bridge

US engineers have helped the IA to build a floating bridge across the Tigris below Mosul. Here is a brilliant transcript of a press conference which is worth reading simply for fun. It also describes the building of the bridge which provides lateral mobility and allows the redeployment of troops to the eastern bank.

"The coalition provided significant training and logistics support to enable the ISF to accomplish these feats -- from the strategic left to bring in those bridges, to building a man-made lake at Camp Taji, so the ISF could rehearse the bridge installation tasks.
The bridge across the Tigris near Qayyarah was a significantly more difficult bridge to employ than the one in Ramadi, due to the size, speed and condition of the river and the enemy situation in the area.
COL. GARVER: The use of the bridge connecting the west and east sides of the Tigris, and connecting Qayyarah West air base and Makhmur will greatly improve maneuverability and shorten lines of communication for the ISF as they prepare for the eventual assault to liberate Mosul."
Extract from Press Conference
3. Peshmerga

There is more than one sort of Peshmerga. I'll write more fully about this in due course. However, the Peshmerga forces closest to Mosul are those of the KDP. What is surprising is that forces of the PUK, a rival Kurdish political party, have been allowed to move into the southern area of the eastern back to support CTS in their clearance of the eastern bank.

The two key Peshmerga forces are Yakray 80 (KDP) and Yakray 70 (PUK). I estimate these at best as brigade sized units. It is rare to see both this level of offensive activity from the Kurds but also their close collaboration, although I suspect this is carefully choreographed by others.

4. Highway 2

The assault currently making good progress is that straight down Highway 2 from the east. My annotated Google map above shows very steady progress into the outskirts of Mosul. The forces on this axis appear to consist of Yakray 70, a brigade force from IA 16th Division plus CTS and US SF.

We can expect that concentric attacks will develop further with Yakray 80 and CTS troops advancing from the NE via Bashiqa and the ISF main force advancing from the south. Note that the main route for escaping civilians is to the South and the need to deal with displaced persons is a big issue for the advancing ISF.

As with the Ramadi and Fallujah battles, ISF appear to be leaving an exit route for ISIS, in this case to the west into an unpopulated area. Also, as in previous battles, the objective may be to reduce resistance in the defended area and then allow air assets to destroy escaping ISIS forces. 

5. Force estimates

AP estimates the forces involved to be:

ISF: 25,000, including Peshmerga, with 100 US SF.
ISIS: 1500 to 2500 in the outer defended balt around Mosul plus 3-5000 in Mosul itself. There is evidence that senior staff and specialists have already fled the area.

By the way, the BBC online news is excellent, as is AP's.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Mosul (2)

getting a shift on!

That's me, not just the offensive.

ISIS have set fire to the Sulphur plant in Mosul (CNN)
I have now made a page for the Mosul work in progress (here). I have updated my draft. Still early days but I'm learning a lot thanks to help from chums.

Another CNN shot of the Sulphur Plant conflagration
I'm aiming to crack on with this over the next few days. Real time is quite hard work.

By the way, I reconsidered my rude comments about the Daily Mail in the first draft, then decided I was quite right and they are awful. Nuff said!

Monday 24 October 2016


it begins!

As with my game on the Battle for Ramadi, I have been planning to do a similar piece of work on the Mosul operation. It will follow on very similar lines. I intend to develop a real time view of the battle and then develop a simulation that will help us all understand what is going on.  

For various reasons I feel in a very serious frame of mind (the male menopause perhaps!) so don't expect as many jokes as usual. Hopefully this will wear off soon!

The first shot is here, rough and ready but lots more to come!   

Saturday 8 October 2016

Professional grid game...

best game ever?

Ha, that's a loaded question! However, let's start at the beginning......

RAND Baltic game, hex grid overlay
I read with great interest the recent RAND organisation report on their Baltic wargame. Using lots of military types and what, to me, looks like a fairly standard NATO/Next War type game with 10km hexes, they have concluded that the Russians can overrun the Baltic states in 60 hours. Recommendation? Put in 7 brigades of additional troops including 3 armoured brigades as a deterrent. You can find the report here.

I mention the RAND game first because they have used a mix of a standard boardgame with little cardboard units that we are all familiar with in a combination with current military experience. The report is good, the concepts are great and the recommendations are probably very sound. Also, if you are interested in current developments in the east, their report is a great basis for some Cold War Commander battles.

According to Paxsims (one of my favourite sites): 
“full documentation of the gaming platform will be forth-coming in a subsequent report.” 
That will be very cool, can't wait.

The reason for mentioning this first is that RAND have been doing military analytics for at least 50 years, if not more, and they know what they are doing. The Baltic stuff is top notch. However, I have now found something that looks and feels like a major step forward. This is C-WAM!

Turkish M60s on the Iraqi border
The US Army have developed their own wargame, it is a map based game using a grid and counters. I don't have any pictures but General Dynamics IT have used the Freedom of Information Act in the US to get a copy of the rules. I have read them and, in my opinion, they are brilliant.

"Oh, alright, I surrender then!"
You can find the whole story here but, essentially, C-WAM (Centre for Army Analytics- Wargame Analysis Model) is a paper and dice based game. While its outputs are fed into a major IT system (Joint Integrated Contingency Model - big campaign management system), it is a battle simulation system that can be used in a very simple way (although you don't seem to be allowed just to do stuff unsupervised in the US Army!).

TOW: Great BBQ starter!
You can find a link to the rules here. I highly recommend reading them, Any experienced board or figure wargamer will feel very comfortable with the concepts. Just to convey some of these:

  • They use a square grid on a map;
  • Squares are 1 by 1 inch;
  • All units that take up space are represented on the map;
  • A grid square represents the area a brigade would occupy when deployed defensively;
  • Time scale is one or three day turns;
  • Squares may represent different sized areas depending on predominant terrain in the combat area e.g. 5km in rolling terrain;
  • Units are brigades;
  • Weather effects are very important, this is the first phase in a turn;
  • Cyber/Space/EW effects are included, you might be successful in dealing in a turn with information attacks and attacks on your space assets (satellites) but you may suffer degradation of in electronic warfare terms;
  • Intel/Surveillance/Recce effects are merged into a targeting value, if you are moving in a J-STARs area you are detected! Otherwise you are detected it there is a targeting value success. Special forces are primarily an information gathering/targeting device!
  • Deep strike bombardments (ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, air packages), atmosphere penetrators (oooer missus);
  • Integrated air defense system "gates" and air to air combat;
  • Forward Area Logistical Supportability: supply to you and me;
  • A major naval warfare sub-system (not useful in the desert but...);
  • Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) Operations: reinforcements anyone?
  • Manoeuvre and stacking (that would be "battlespace limitations"!);
  • Force Multiplier Combat Values: artillery support;
  • Ground force combat with tables and die rolls!

Syrian forces exposing themselves to ISR detection
It says in the rules that they are not to be used without appropriate support. I agree. They are not a complete set on their own but, rather, a tool kit that needs to be carefully managed.

Are they the best game ever? No, but they are such a major insight into real-world wargaming and current US doctrine that they are extremely important. if you don't wear green pyjamas, reading these rules is the closest you will get to the smell of gunpowder. Oh, by the way, they use a square grid, how interesting is that!