How ISIS will react to the Mosul Offensive

October 18th, 2016 - In recent weeks I have had the chance to speak to several knowledgable and interesting people. I can't identify most of them by name and therefore won't identify any of them just to be on the safe side.

Suffice it to say that one of them says of himself that he is an ISIS member (full bai'a and all); that two more consider themselves supporters of ISIS and know a number of people who formally joined and/or are currently in Syria or Iraq; that another two are former Baath era military officers and that three of them are members of Syrian rebel groups.

Of course this is a group of truly varied backgrounds. The interesting thing, however, is that they largely agreed on how ISIS has prepared for the battle of Mosul and what might be happening next.

This is what they largely agree on:

* ISIS will not waste a significant number of fighters in the defense of Mosul. The lowest estimate was as low as 300.

* ISIS will try and make the unavoidable fall of Mosul as expensive as possible for the attackers: They will encounter massive amounts of booby traps; perhaps snipers.

* ISIS will try and exfiltrate into a) those desert areas of Iraq that are close to communities where there is a certain degree of tacit or open support for them and b) those areas of Syria and Iraq still under their control including some that have probably been prepared for that purpose in advance like al-Qaim but also the lesser known area of Bir Qassab in Syria.

* ISIS will not be destroyed by the loss of Mosul at all but is quite capable of surviving and perhaps even making a come-back after a while, especially when Mosul and the liberated areas can't be pacified properly.

* Foreign fighters of ISIS will have a hard time leaving the theatre of war: Most of their passports would have been burnt a long time ago, most of their governments know them and would immediately arrest them. This means they will either die fighting or try and lay low with the local contingent.

* ISIS will soon return to guerrilla tactics, especially in Iraq, attacking "everyone not IS" with all means possible, ranging from sniping attacks to IEDs and skirmishes.

Some of this may not be super exciting stuff and you may have come across it elsewhere. But I found it interesting that a group that diverse would agree on so many things.