Iraqi forces achieve key victory in fight against ISIS
AMMAN - The victory by Iraqi security forces in recapturing the centre and parts of Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi is key to the larger fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) across Iraq.
It is clear that as the Iraqi Army grabs more ISIS-controlled territory in Ramadi and is able to maintain control over the Sunni-dominated city, ISIS stands to suffer a serious strategic defeat.
The ISIS loss of Ramadi on December 27th has isolated its jihadist fighters in the nearby Anbar city of Falluja and cut them off from the rest of the group’s strongholds in western Iraq.
Falluja is planned to be next city to be purged of the jihadists. Wedged between Ramadi and Baghdad, Falluja was the first to fall to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s militants in January 2014. Six months earlier, ISIS emerged from al-Qaeda and conquered large parts of Iraq and of neighbouring Syria.
Winning back Ramadi allows Iraq to cut off a major supply line that swept across Ramadi to Falluja from Anbar, the vast desert province inhabited mostly by Sunni Muslim Arab tribes, some of whom sided with ISIS to avenge their isolation by successive Shia-dominated governments in Baghdad.
With the militants ousted from areas surrounding Baghdad, the capital’s security has been bolstered and an over-stretched army can move on to try to retake Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in the north.
The moves are gauged under precise military plans coordinated with the United States, Iraqi military commander Major-General Ismail al-Mahlawi told The Arab Weekly.
Washington maintains 3,500 military service personnel in Iraq, providing air cover and tactics that has helped root out ISIS from six crucial cities in Iraq’s centre and north.
Recent defeats of ISIS have constituted a major symbolic accomplishment for the Iraqi Army, which had been humiliated when its forces retreated in the face of advancing ISIS fighters in Ramadi, in May 2015.
Military advances also boost the standing of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. As far back as October, Abadi vowed that Ramadi would be recaptured by early 2016, Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi said, adding: “He delivered on his promise and this should tell everyone he means business.”