By mid-afternoon on 18 January, the Iraqi army has almost completed the liberation of the Eastern part of Mosul. Posts about the complete liberation of the Eastern neighborhoods are still premature, but organized defense of the Caliphate on the Eastern Bank of the Tigris came to an end. The army took almost all previously controlled by the “black” neighborhoods and provided control over the territory around the destroyed bridges over the river. Focal resistance continued in the North-Eastern districts, and also near the Palace of al-REM.Here still need some time to clean up the city and further filtering to identify the militants, who did not cross to the West Bank or left on the Eastern shore for the implementation of attacks and attacks against Iraqi security forces.
In the Eastern parts of the city unit of the office of counter terrorism (known under the popular name “gold division”) could “clean up” a few small city blocks, but after 12 December and they stopped further progress, continuing to repel the attacks of militants.On the Northern outskirts of the city 16 infantry division stopped the offensive on December 3 after completing a “sweep” several nearby villages. On the southern outskirts of the Federal police stopped on the outskirts of the military camp of al-Ghazlani and Mosul airport at the end of November.However, the plan to storm the city from that direction apparently was abandoned.
In General, the parties expected the talks in Astana on January 23 and subsequent negotiations between Russia and USA that somehow will clarify many important points for understanding the future course of the winter-spring campaign of 2017. Prerequisites to a complete end of hostilities of course not – it is about changing foreign policy situation around Syria and the definition of the list of hot fronts, where fighting will continue and which will be created by military means the conditions for the subsequent peace talks.This negotiation step is necessary to consolidate a new military-political reality established after the defeat of the “green” in the battle for Aleppo.
The Prime Minister of Iraq said that it reached an important agreement with Turkey, whereby Turkey agreed to withdraw its troops from Iraq in the Mosul area and “to respect the territorial integrity of Iraq.” The Iraqi government, according to Kurdish sources promised to limit the influence of the PKK on Iraqi territory, although it’s going to do it, it is not clear how the PKK operates mainly in the territories controlled by the Peshmerga.
After the failure of the December attempt to storm al-Bab and the departure of the Turkish troops in position to the West of the city, the fighting here took positional character. The Turks are engaged in the accumulation of forces, continuing to throw from Turkey additional forces of infantry and armored vehicles, as well as groups of fighters from Idlib, to replenish suffered serious losses in December, groups of “Ahrar al-sham” and the Syrian Free Army. Turkish aircraft and artillery intensively work on the defensive positions of the Caliphate. According to Turkish sources, the Turks help from Russian air forces, and officially this assistance the defense Ministry confirmed.
During the offensive to the West of Raqqa, the SDF forces/YPG with the support of the USA took the castle of Jabar to the North of the airbase Tabka. The Caliphate slowly moves to the main defensive positions to the West and North-West of Raqqa, where it is planned to organize a long-term defense on a narrow front. Some of the forces withdrew to the South Bank of the Euphrates – some in the direction of the Tabka, others to al-Baba. At the current pace of progress SDF, in March the Kurds should go on near the outskirts of Raqqa to the West, plus will probably attempt to advance to the capital of the Caliphate from the North. It is also not excluded the option of trying to cross the Euphrates in the area of Tabka, to the benefit of the territory Rojava Americans imported including engineering technique that can be used in the construction of a pontoon bridge in the case of formation of a bridgehead on the southern Bank of the Euphrates. Although in General, it is more likely that priority will be given for a direct advance to Raqqa.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus made clear in one of his statements that his country may change its policy in relation to Syria and depart from the course held by Ankara since 2011, when it supported the interventions of the anti-government forces against President Bashar al-Assad. “We have no right to impose any solution of the Syrian people”, – said the Deputy head of the Turkish government.