Michael Pregent, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and a senior Middle East analyst, joined The Glenn Beck Program on Tuesday with an update on the situation in Mosul. Pregent is also a former military intelligence officer.
"The effort to take Mosul back from the Islamic State is now many weeks underway. What is the latest in this battle against ISIS on the ground in northern Iraq?" Buck Sexton asked, filling in for Glenn on radio.
Pregent had both good and bad news to relay. Among his concerns were the 50,000 refugees that have fled the area.
"They're preferring to go to places where the Peshmerga are in control of territory, because the Peshmerga have a heavier U.S. presence. And they believe that the U.S. can actually act as a guarantor, but they don't feel necessarily the same way about moving towards predominantly Shia forces," Pregent said.
With food supplies running low, Pregent calls it an "overwhelming" situation.
Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:
VOICE: You are entering TheBlaze threat ops center. This is a secure space. All outside coms are down. Prepare to receive the Buck Brief.
BUCK: Michael Pregent joins us now. He's an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute where he's a senior Middle East analyst. And he's also a former military intelligence officer. Great to have you, Michael. Thanks for calling in.
MICHAEL: Hey, thanks, Buck. Thanks for having me.
BUCK: All right. The effort to take Mosul back from the Islamic State is now many weeks underway. What is the latest in this battle against ISIS on the ground in northern Iraq?
MICHAEL: Well, it's slowed down to a crawl. As the Iraqi security forces are starting to enter from the east, they're encountering a lot of resistance, but they're not getting the US air support or artillery support that they had counted on. And that's because the United States is not going to provide artillery and air support to a predominantly Shia force, as they enter a predominantly Sunni town, where there's still a population of almost a million people still there. So that's why it's slowed down to a crawl.
BUCK: And the -- so far, the humanitarian issues that have been concerns leading up to this, about refugees fleeing the area, the numbers are surging. Are they able -- are the proper authorities and resources in place to try to handle the outflow of refugees, or are they becoming overwhelmed?
MICHAEL: Well, they're already becoming overwhelmed. I think there's 50,000 refugees that have left Mosul so far, and they are running out of food supplies at some of these organizations. But what's more telling is the direction in which the refugee flow is going. The refugees aren't going to the west, where the Shia militias are. They're not going to the south, where the Iraqi military is. They're preferring to go to places where the Peshmerga are in control of territory, because the Peshmerga have a heavier US presence. And they believe that the US can actually act as a guarantor. But they don't feel necessarily the same way about moving towards predominantly Shia forces.
One of the things we're seeing is when CNN, Fox, BBC report on this, they're saying that the Iraqi military are separating the women and children from the men. Now, that is the normal process. A process that is more comfortable when the US is doing the along with Peshmerga to make sure that any military-aged male, who is actually affiliated with ISIS, is screened out.
The problem is when the Iraqi security forces do this, or when the Shia militias do this, they basically say that any Sunni military-aged male is likely collaborated with ISIS. And we've seen people who have disappeared off the battlefield in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tekrit, when the Shia militias and the predominantly Shia Iraqi military are left in charge of this process.
BUCK: Now, as US support directed to the Peshmerga is limited because we don't want to be -- well, we don't want to be, one, taking any casualties, but also we don't, two, want to be close to some of the battle. They want it to be an Iraqi-led force, and they want the tip of the spear to be Iraqi as much as possible.
The Shia militias, it seems, are going to be more heavily utilized in this process, which could bring about some serious sectarian tension.
MICHAEL: What I'm looking at now is, you look at the forces that are participating in the Mosul operation. It's a counterterrorism service. A lot of these guys are already bandaged from previous battles. They're going in with wounds that they sustained fighting in Tikrit or Ramadi and Fallujah. They're taxed. These guys are tired. They're effective. But they're just overstressed. The 15th Iraqi army -- or 15th Iraqi Army Division is out of Baghdad -- so these are all Shia soldiers, a lot of them affiliated with Jay Salmedi. The 9th Iraqi Army Division is all Shia.
Now, notice I just talked about the Iraqi Army here. They're already heavily infiltrated with militias, except they wear uniforms. They're still flying sectarian flags. Now, the Shia militias in the West, as they move to HEP Talaffer, they're going in, and they're starting to cause some problems there.
What I'm looking at now is, where do these Shia militias put their artillery and their rockets? Because the United States and the coalition is not going to blow up civilian neighborhoods like the Iraqi military and the militias did in Fallujah and Ramadi. So if you keep track of these Shia militias, where they put artillery and rockets, that will be very telling, because as they move into range of Mosul, they will start hitting these neighborhoods where these population centers are still in play.
BUCK: Is there any sense that you've picked up from your contacts on the ground, that the Sunni Arabs who live in Mosul, a city in which no one really knows how many people live there now, but in the past, it's about about a million people. Do you get any sense from those who are in contact with Sunni airbags there, that they feel like it's a good thing obviously that the Islamic State is hopefully going to lose control of Mosul within weeks, maybe months. But it's certainly taken a very long time for the Iraqi government to get to this point. It feels like an unacceptable delay, despite the fact that we should be -- it's a positive development that this is happening. It took, what, two years?
MICHAEL: Well, I would argue that we never really defeated or controlled Mosul when the US was there. We developed networks. We developed relationships to travel leaders. We built a Sunni intelligence network. And we slowly used an intelligence-backed strategy to decimate the leadership, which led to their demise, using the sons of Iraq and the awakening. I think this is a great opportunity to do that, put that back into play now. Obviously, you're not going to be able to take Mosul and the US is unable to provide air support and artery. Now is the time to slow it down, start to develop the Sunni sources, have them provide intelligence, because they've been doing that. They've given intelligence to the Peshmerga and some of the Iraqi security forces that have pinpointed ISIS locations, that have allowed US airstrikes to come in. I think right now, if I was able to advise something on it, let's slow it down. Let's make an intelligence operation that empowers the Sunni operation in Mosul with manpower and Intel to go after ISIS. And then create that political space for them to start building trust with Baghdad again. But that requires huge leverage on our part with Baghdad, to increase that leverage, to pull those levers to make sure that we make Baghdad a government that the Sunni population in Iraq can trust again. And that's going to be the hardest challenge.
BUCK: And this clearing operation will last months, at this point?
MICHAEL: Well, there will be a -- there could be a PR victory. We've replaced the flag in the center of Mosul. And that's exactly what happened.
But if you look at any of those three cities today, you'll still see that there are ISIS networks active, and that they're still able to conduct high profile attacks in Bagdad so there can be a victory that the media celebrates, that ISIS has been defeated in Mosul. And I will argue that that isn't going to happen until the Sunni population in Iraq trusts Baghdad. So I see this going on for a while.
Like I said, we were there from '03 to '11. And there were still pocket of resistance symbols. They just chose not to attack us.
BUCK: Michael, switching gears with one more question for you. You're former US military. What do you think about the likely pick of General Mattis for Secretary of Defense?
MICHAEL: I love the pick. I hope he takes it because he balances everything that people are worried about with the Trump administration. He's hard on Russia. He's hard on Iran. He's pragmatic. He believes that the use of military force needs to be one where you only put the military in if you want to win and you empower them to win. I hope he takes the position. He'd be a great voice -- a great pragmatic voice, a well-respected voice. And I think he would -- he would stay the concerns of most Middle Eastern leaders on what the next administration looks like over the next four years.
BUCK: Michael Pregent is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. Mike, always great to have you. We'll talk to you soon. Thanks for calling in.
MICHAEL: Thanks, Buck. Thanks for having me.
Featured Image: A picture taken through the bullet-riddled windshield of an Iraqi Special Forces armoured vehicle shows residents walking on a street in the Aden district of Mosul after troops almost entirely retook the area from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on November 22, 2016. The fighting inside the city so far has focused on eastern neighbourhoods, which elite counter-terrorism and army forces entered earlier this month. The Islamic State group has offered fierce resistance to defend its last remaining bastion in Iraq, the city where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in June 2014. (Photo Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)