Iraq Hopeful as It Takes Back Ramadi From ISIS

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In Ramadi, Iraq, calm was beginning to move throughout the city, and residents were hopeful that they were almost free from the terrors of ISIS. After so much war, however, the city is filled with land mines and other explosives. Brigadier General Ahmed al-Belawi reported that technicians are disabling and removing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from all over the city. ISIS has held Ramadi for eight months.

Elizabeth Palmer, a CBS News correspondent, said that taking back Ramadi took weeks of preparation. Iraq’s troops cut off all of ISIS’ supply lines into the city beginning on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. The moment of true victory, however, did not happen until Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made sure their national flag was once again flying over their city. Special forces led the fight against ISIS for a week. After gaining better equipment and conducting over 600 airstrikes over ISIS, they believe they have won back their city. This victory may be the boost the prime minister needs to allow him to rebuild the military.

Iraqi soldiers learned while fighting vicious battles in Baiji and Tikrit earlier in the year. Iraqi militants fought alongside Shiite militias, which consisted of small groups of military personnel, police officers, and anyone else willing to pick up a gun and fight for their home. These groups were able to push ISIS out of Tikrit and Baiji. This time, the Iraqi militants were able to take back Ramadi without as much help from the Shiite militias. To them, this was a true victory for the Iraqi soldiers. The prime minister declared Dec. 30 a national holiday to celebrate and honor their efforts.

Juan Zarate, a national security analyst for CBS News, believes the Iraqi militants are now better equipped and trained. This is partly due to the United States and their coalition partnership, as well as their new capabilities and gained confidence.

According to CBS News, the battle to take back Ramadi is only a taste of what is to come in 2016. Iraq’s prime minister warned ISIS that Iraqi forces were “coming to liberate Mosul next – and deal ISIS a fatal blow.” Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari informed Reuters the Iraqi army would require assistance from the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to regain control over Mosul. This is the largest city ISIS controls.

Authorities have confirmed the air strikes killed 10 ISIS leaders. It is also believed that leaders involved in the Paris attacks were also killed. One of the men killed in the battle was Abdul Qader Hakim. He was responsible for external operations for ISIS and was linked to the Paris attack network. According to U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, he was killed on Dec. 26, 2015, in Mosul. On Dec. 24, an air strike on Syria killed Charaffe al Mouadan, preventing his plans for more attacks in the West.

Warren reported the Iraqi casualties were low double digits. ISIS, however, lost hundreds.

On Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, the Pentagon announced that Iraqi militants were not finding it easy to finish clearing the city as anticipated. Originally, the U.S. military claimed there were a few ISIS members left in Ramadi. A couple of days later, U.S. officials said Iraq was encountering infrequent attacks. Now, an official who would like to remain anonymous has reported, “They’re expanding their asymmetric tactics to buy more time and space.”

On Wednesday, there was also a briefing in Baghdad which put the number of ISIS fighters in Ramadi at twice the earlier levels given by intelligence. Iraqi and U.S. officials believe they were able to cut off their supply trucks and reinforcements. Warren reported to the Pentagon that it is more about what they can accomplish than just numbers. He is hopeful the enemy has grown weary. The first wave of counterattacks consisted of groups of three to five soldiers with a machine gun or rocket-propelled grenade.

Iraq’s military freed 52 families who had been trapped in the city and who were being used as human shields by ISIS. Now, there is a concern there could be militants infiltrating the city as Ramadi citizens. The fight is not over yet.

By Jeanette Smith
Edited by Shepherd Mutsvara


CBS News: Iraq Commander Says Calm Restored in Ramadi After ISIS Routed
Reuters: Islamic State suffers double blow as Ramadi falls, leaders killed
VOA News: Iraqi Forces Find More IS ‘Pockets of Resistance’ in Ramadi
Featured Image Courtesy of United States Forces Iraq’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Yas Albaz’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License