Since the Islamic State’s (IS) gains in central Anbar at the beginning of October 2014 it has continued its campaign to take the entire province. It has seized another army base, several small towns, and is now assaulting Ramadi, Haditha, Baghdadi, which is the home to several major Iraqi Security Forces bases, and a couple other areas. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and allied tribes are fighting back, but they find themselves outside looking in on many of Anbar’s urban centers.
After the fall of Hit in western Anbar it looked like the Iraqi Security Forces were collapsing across the center of the province. Hit was taken on October 2, which was the start of a string of victories for the Islamic State. Three days later the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) suddenly withdrew from Ramadi to the Anbar Operations Command center outside of the city without a fight. Sources told Al Mada that Ramadi was almost barren of police and soldiers. It appeared then that the insurgents had finally seized the provincial capital. That same day IS pushed the ISF out of the area north of Fallujah to the Salahaddin border forcing them back to Samarra. Garma, Albu Khanafar, Muhammadawi, Kubaisa, Abu Risha, Albu Ali Jassim, Albu Fahd, and other small towns all came under militant control. October 7 IS returned to Haditha, which it had failed to take the previous month. In just a few days it looked like the insurgency had the ISF on the run. Most of central and northeast Anbar appeared to have been captured. Even if there were still outposts in the area they were cut off from their supply lines due to the Islamic State’s gains.
The Anbar council had been warning of the dire security situation in the province for weeks. It demanded that Baghdad send more arms, forces, and air assets immediately. It also called for the removal of the head of the Anbar Operations Command General Rasheed Flayh who they blamed for all of the defeats. The deputy head of council told the press that the whole province could go under in days if the central government didn’t react. As Anbar Governor Ahmed Dulaimi told Musings On Iraq, local politicians had been frustrated for a long time by the lack of training, professionalism, and corruption within the security forces. More importantly there appeared to be no strategy on how to retake and hold the lost territories from the militants.
Despite the stinging reverses the Iraqi Security Forces did attempt to counter attack. After its sudden withdrawal from Ramadi it moved back into northern and central parts of the city. The ISF was also trying to secure the areas around Fallujah, Ramadi, and Hit, while launching attacks upon Garma. The United Sates even carried out air strikes to break up insurgent forces massing around Haditha. Still, due to its retreats the army and police only hold around 40% of Ramadi. In the other major cities and towns it is mostly on the perimeter seeking ways to re-enter them.
The initiative is still with the Islamic State and the insurgency. On October 12, the Anbar police commander General Ahmed Dulaimi was killed in Abu Risha by an IED. On October 13, IS took another army base outside of Hit after three days of fighting. The ISF claimed it made a “tactical withdrawal”, but the fact they left most of their equipment and supplies behind makes it appear like it was another rout. That same day IS seized a Federal Police base north of Hit, expanded its control in the surrounding villages, and began assaults on Khalidiya in between Fallujah and Ramadi, and upon Amiriya Fallujah near the Babil border. It continues a major drive upon Haditha with the council head there saying that the town needed immediate help or the city would fall. October 14 it started attacking Baghdadi, which is to the southwest of Haditha and the neighboring Al-Assad air base. This is also the home of the 7th Division and the Jazeera Operations Command headquarters. The Islamic State continues to gain neighborhoods in Ramadi as well. After its earlier victories IS now attempting to seize all of Anbar. It is attacking up and down the entire length of the province, and the ISF and tribes have not been able to stop them.
Anbar remains one of the main battlefronts in Iraq since fighting started there at the very end of 2013. The struggle there has gone in fits and spurts. Many towns have gone back and forth between government and insurgent control, but then there have been times where the anti-Baghdad forces have made major gains. The last time was in June when the ISF unexpectedly withdrew from all along the Syrian border when Mosul and Tikrit fell. Then things seemed to settle down again only for the Islamic State to go on the offensive in August. It didn’t seem like its plans were going so well as it failed to take Haditha its main target. Then Hit was taken, and the militants surged across much of central Anbar. Now the entire province is threatened. The fact that the ISF still appear hapless in most areas does not bode well for the future. They have broken again and again in just a few days. Both Baghdad and the American led coalition need to intervene in a much more determined fashion to reverse the situation, because even if places like Ramadi and Haditha are able to hold on they are cut off from their supply lines and need to be supplied by air something the government forces are not good at. If not there could be more bad news coming out of western Iraq very soon.
Alsumaria, “Anbar Operations announces the liberation of Warrar area north of Ramadi from “Daash,”” 10/8/14
Arabic CNN, “Anbar police chief for CNN: Daash caught one of the largest air bases..and the Alliance performs 21 raids with the participation of Saudis on Kobani,” 10/14/14
Cunningham, Erin, “Islamic State fighters are threatening to overrun Iraq’s Anbar province,” Washington Post, 10/9/14
Daragahi, Borzou, “Isis fighters seize key military base in Iraq’s Anbar province,” Financial Times, 10/13/14
Al Mada, “Administration Anbar: Daash controls limited areas of Ramadi and military operations are continuing to expel them,” 10/6/14
-“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: Flow of 400 Daash with vehicles and arms across the border from Syria to Anbar,” 10/8/14
- “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
Mamoun, Abdelhak, “URGENT: ISIS seizes 3rd largest military base in western Iraq and takes its tanks, heavy weapons and supplies,” Iraq News, 10/14/14
National Iraqi News Agency, “Anbar Operations Command announces the IS control on Hit training camp after “tactical” withdrawal of military units,” 10/13/14
- “Breaking News….Army, backed by tribesmen, foil armed attack on Haditha district, in Anbar,” 10/7/14
- “Breaking News….The Islamic State attacks Haditha district from two directions,” 10/14/14
- “Chairman of the Provincial Council of Anbar announces the entry of more than /5/ thousands terrorists from Syria to the province,” 10/11/14
- “The IS organization controls the area /Zekhaikha/ north of Hit,” 10/11/14
- “The Islamic State controls two cities west of Anbar province,” 10/5/14
- “Liberating the /Towi/ area north of Ramadi from the IS control,” 10/11/14
- “Security Forces, Backed by Tribesmen, Free Two Villages in Fallujah,” 10/8/14
- “Two villages, north of Hit district, freed,” 10/9/14
New Sabah, “Anbar Council: We have 5 cities battling Daash fiercely,” 10/13/14
Radio Free Iraq, “06 October 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, “ 10/6/14
- “12 October 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 10/12/14
- “13 October 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 10/13/14
- “14 October 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 10/14/14
Shafaq News, “ISIS terrorists control Heet entire camp and the neighboring regions,” 10/13/14