Al Qaeda goes north: Police chief killed in Mosul
The provincial police chief died in a suicide bombing Thursday while inspecting the site of a major bombing in Mosul.
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Goran blames the worsening security situation in Mosul on militants fleeing from other provinces like Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala where major anti-insurgency operations took place over the past year and also a reduction in the number of Iraqi Army and US forces, who left Mosul to take part in those same operations. He says the interior ministry has been "very slow" in building up the police force in Nineveh and Mosul.Skip to next paragraph
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The province, which has a population of about three million, has a police force of 20,000 on the books, but the actual number of those patrolling the streets is much lower. He says Mosul, where half the population resides, has only 3,000 policemen.
He says one desperate measure the provincial council is considering seriously is to dig a trench around the city of Mosul and allow entry only through a few designated checkpoints to restrict the movements of militants and insurgents.
"The city must be cleansed like Baghdad and Anbar. There are pockets of terror festering here since 2004," says Goran.
But Hertling said that the forces that were taken out of Mosul have been moving back into the area since the end of December. Last week, the Iraqi government appointed a new Iraqi commander to be based in Mosul. He will coordinate the activities of the Iraqi Army, police, and border guards in the province, he said, hinting that major offensives against militants in Mosul may be launched shortly.
Goran cautions that replicating the CLC or the tribal awakening experience in Mosul will not work because of the province's fragile ethnic and sectarian mix which includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and other groups like the Yazidis and Shabak.
The Dubai-based analyst Mr. Ani agrees, and says that this mix coupled with proximity to the Syrian border, through which foreign fighters and weapons stream, and heightened tensions between Kurds and Arabs, all combine to make Mosul an ideal base for insurgents linked to Al Qaeda.
Ani says the Kurds claim nearly 15 percent of the land of Nineveh Province and want it, along with the neighboring oil rich city of Kirkuk to the east, to be part of the Kurdistan region. This issue has unified the Sunni Arabs and Turkmen, concentrated in western and southern Nineveh, against the Kurds.
"The radicalization is happening very fast in Mosul," says Ani. "If the Americans do not pressure the Kurds to tone down their demands," he sees some groups in Mosul lining up with the Islamists fighting both the Americans and the Kurds. He says that only a political solution will work.
In addition to becoming a haven for Islamic radicals, Mosul has long had strong pan-Arab sentiments and was home to the highest number of Army officers during the rule of Saddam Hussein, he notes.
On Tuesday, Hertling said that troops have conducted nearly 40 operations in all of Iraq's northern provinces since the end of December. Those operations have resulted in the killing of 130 militants and the capture of another 370.
General Hertling nonetheless highlighted the problem that US forces have long faced against insurgents in Iraq.
"Whenever you feel comfortable that you've eliminated them in one area, they tend to re-emerge," Hertling said. "We'll never say that we've completed pursuing them because they may always come back."
Indeed, Mosul and Nineveh have a history of insurgent attacks. After a period of relative calm following the US-led invasion, Mosul became a major flashpoint and an Al Qaeda stronghold in the fall of 2004 right around the time of the US-led offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad.
In November 2004, militants forced the entire police force of Mosul to quit in a series of bold and coordinated attacks. The US responded by establishing bases and outposts inside the city, just like those set up in Baghdad and Anbar's capital, Ramadi, during the past year, to eject the militants.