Some are eager to provide Iraqi troops with intel about ISIL in Mosul

When Islamic State militants in Mosul discovered that Ahmed's brother had served in the army, they went to his house, pulled him into the street, and shot him dead as his parents watched.

Now, it was time for revenge, and after two years of ferrying the extremists around as a taxi driver, Ahmed had plenty of information to offer special forces at a command post in an east Mosul apartment on Friday.

"They're in this church, and only God knows what goes on in there," he told intelligence officers, pointing out map coordinates during a half-hour session. They met in a living room used to receive residents just a few blocks away from the battle, some seeking help, others being questioned, while the unlucky ones faced interrogation or stern reprimands for various infractions. Ahmed asked his full name be withheld for fear of reprisals.

With heavy weapons less useful in the dense urban alleyways of Iraq's second city, local intelligence is growing in value. Special forces on the front lines are beefing up efforts to win civilians' trust, passing out food and medicine and gleaning real-time information about the extremists they are fighting in pitched, house-to-house combat.

In doing so, officers are also taking on classic counterinsurgency roles, becoming actors of local governance, addressing grievances and dispensing swift battlefield justice.
Speaking in the Bakr apartment, Lt. Col. Ali Hussein said his forces have strict orders to take care of civilians to win the peace, but that they went a bit further, buying medicine for the old and infirm.

"We pay with our own money, it's the humane thing to do," he said. "It's a modest neighborhood and we have to keep a good reputation and show the civilians we are on the same side - Daesh has brainwashed them for two years," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

IS forces as well, driven underground and unable to group into formations for risk of attracting airstrikes, also realize the importance of information. On Friday alone, they sent three reconnaissance drones to scout positions in the district - the same amount as over the previous two weeks.

"It was a big push, much more than normal," Hussein said, showing off a damaged commercially available DJI Phantom 4 drone the size of a record player.

"We shot down two."
There is much more.

It appears that the Iraqis learned some of the lessons of the US counterinsurgency operations.  They will still have a tough slog through a city that still has around a million residents who have not fled.


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