Monday, October 6, 2014

Iraq’s Security Forces Collapse As The Islamic State Takes Control of Most of Anbar Province

The Islamic State (IS) has been on the offensive in Anbar since August and their effort has finally paid off with another collapse by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). In August the insurgents began attacks upon Haditha in the western section of the province and in Ramadi in the center at the same time. Haditha was successfully defended, but then in September leading into October the militants had one victory after another. They successfully took Camp Saqlawiya outside of Fallujah, followed by the seizure of Hit, Kubaisa, Muhammadawi, and then Ramadi itself making a successful sweep through the center of the governorate. That leaves only Haditha and two military bases still under government control. This was a huge victory for IS as it gives the insurgents virtual control over Anbar and poses a serious threat to western Baghdad.

After failing to take Haditha IS turned east taking Hit, Ramadi and areas outside of Fallujah giving it de facto control over Anbar (New York Times)

In just three days in the beginning of October 2014 the Islamic State was able to take most of central Anbar. Starting on October 2, IS launched a multi-pronged attack upon Hit, which is to the west of Ramadi opening with three car bombs on a checkpoint and the police command offices. Two suicide bombers then set off their devices. Tribesmen came to the aid of the local security forces, and coalition air strikes were called in and bombed sections of Hit, but they were not able to stop the attack. That same day the Iraqi Army’s 8th Brigade headquarters in central Ramadi was hit by car bombs as well. October 4, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) claimed that it had retaken one police station in Hit, but the insurgents were still in control of the town. That same day IS took neighboring Kubaisa. According to Reuters, the militants infiltrated a convoy of displaced people who were fleeing Hit, and used them as cover to overtake a checkpoint outside of Kubaisa, allowing them entry into the town. Then the final collapse happened the following day when Muhammadawi fell, and then the security forces withdrew from Ramadi falling back to the Anbar Operations Command outside of the city without seemingly putting up a fight. Insurgents also took control of areas north of Fallujah including Garma forcing the ISF to pull back to Samarra in Salahaddin. The Anbar provincial council desperately called for help from Baghdad, but it was too late, the center of the governorate had fallen and the ISF appeared in disarray. Hundreds of families were said to have fled Hit after its seizure by IS, and others are likely on the move as well. The only areas still under ISF control are Haditha, Al-Assad military base, which is outside of Hit, and Camp Mazrah near Fallujah. These are now isolated islands cut off from their supply lines, and will have to be supported by air. They will be the next targets of IS. This was a huge win for the insurgents as it gives them de facto control of Anbar, which they had been fighting for since January. These latest victories were two months in the making.

The latest Islamic State offensive actually started with a defeat in western Anbar, but the group then found success in other parts of the province. In the beginning of August IS laid siege to Haditha, attempting to take its dam, which would be a major piece of infrastructure that it could use to help run its state and threaten the rest of Anbar with. For weeks IS went after the town launching attack after attack, but the security forces and local tribes were able to hold fast. By the start of September the ISF and Sahwa were going on the offensive clearing areas of Haditha, which was supported by U.S. air strikes. They were also attempting to secure sections of Ramadi where militants were trying to expand their influence. As usual, the ISF claimed success in these operations, but they have never had lasting effects. Then the Iraqi army faced a major defeat when Camp Saqlawiya to the north of Fallujah fell on September 21 after five days of attacks. By September 28 insurgents were said to be in control of three districts of Ramadi. The Anbar Police Command claimed they were still in control of 70% of the city. IS built upon these successes, and moved to take central Anbar the next month. The Iraqi army, police and allied tribes had been fighting over these same areas for the last nine months with little to show for it. They would raid an area, and then withdraw to their bases, allowing the militants to move right back in. The Anbar governor and council had consistently complained that they needed more support from the central government and heavier weapons. Premier Hadier Abadi was said to be thinking about shaking up the Anbar Operations Command as well. Those warnings and fears have now come to fruition as most of Anbar is under militant control.

Anbar highlights all of the problems the Iraqi government is facing in its struggle with the insurgency. There was never any effective strategy to retake the province when large sections of it were taken over in January. The ISF never proved capable of holding any area in Anbar. Even its alliance with several tribes in the governorate did not help as they only had small arms, and the start of U.S. and coalition air strikes were not able to reverse the situation either. Now much of the governorate has fallen, most of the population has become displaced, and the ISF is in disarray. This now poses a direct threat to Baghdad, with western sections of the province already said to be under the militant’s sway. Four months after the fall of Mosul and Tikrit, the insurgency still holds the initiative as shown by its taking of another province. There are few signs that this situation will be changed any time soon as security continues to be in flux across Iraq.


AIN, “Wide security operation to start in Ramadi,” 9/27/14

Alsumaria, “Haditha announce the start of a military operation east of city cleared of Daash,” 9/12/14
- “Start the process of an extensive security operation in three areas of Ramadi to liberate it from Daash,” 9/12/14

Buratha News, “Anbar Operations begin a massive military operation to cleanse the areas north of Ramadi of Daash,” 9/23/14
- “The island and the desert begins a military operation to clear Rawa from Daash,” 9/16/14

Al Mada, “Anbar makes renewed claim to the federal government to expedite the arming of the security forces to enable them to respond to Daash,” 10/5/14
- “Anbar police confirm the control of the security forces on 70% of Ramadi,” 10/1/14
- “Army troops withdraw from the city of Ramadi and stationed in Anbar Operations Command headquarters north of the city,” 10/5/14
- “Daash controls the area north of Fallujah linked with Samarra,” 10/5/14
- “Daash review in Hawija..and Anbar launches the process of “Revenge of the Spyker,”” 9/13/14

National Iraqi News Agency, “22 elements of Daash killed in Heet,” 10/4/14
- “Anbar police chief: Liberating /7/ km area in Ramadi from the control of the IS,” 9/19/14
- “An army force backed by the sons of the tribes liberated Al-Hamidhiya area northeast of Ramadi,” 9/4/14
- “An Army Force liberates the University of Fallujah and clears it from the (IS) elements,” 10/1/14
- “Army troops liberated Al-khvajia in Haditha from the IS control,” 9/8/14
- “Army troops liberated areas east of Fallujah from the IS,” 9/3/14
- “Breaking News.Cleansing Barwana area from the IS elements,” 9/8/14
- “Breaking News..liberating all areas north and west of the city of Ramadi from the IS control,” 9/22/14
- “Coalition air strike kills a large number of Daash gangs in Heet district of Anbar,” 10/2/14
- “Four villages between Ramadi and Saqlawiyah freed from the control of the (IS),” 9/28/14
- “Hundreds of Heet’s families displaced,” 10/4/14
- “The Islamic State controls two cities west of Anbar province,” 10/5/14
- “A security source: Military units carried out operations on the areas of the IS holed up in Ramadi,” 9/6/14

Radio Free Iraq, “02 October 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 10/2/14
- “02 September 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 9/2/14
- “28 September 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 9/28/14

Al Rayy, “Security forces loosen the siege of soldiers trapped in the north arm of the Tigris Anbar,” 10/3/14
- “The strength of the anti-terror begins to carry out a military operation in Ramadi,” 9/25/14

Reuters, “Town falls to Islamic State in Iraq’s Anbar province,” 10/4/14

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary! Thank you for posting.