Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Islamic State’s Car Bomb Campaign In Iraq’s Anbar

Anbar is the main focus of the Islamic State (IS). While its attacks have dramatically declined in almost every other province they have remained steady in Anbar over the last year. It is also the only province where IS has continued to gain territory highlighted by its victory in Ramadi in May. As part of its tactics the group has deployed a huge number of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) mostly to break down the government’s defenses. The car bombs highlight the extensive networks IS has throughout Anbar.

The Islamic State began a new car bomb campaign in Iraq in July. Anbar was one of the main targets with the second most VBIEDs in the country after Salahaddin. In June there were just 32 car bombs in the province, which dramatically jumped to 106 in July, and 92 in August. The majority of those got destroyed before reaching their targets because most were targeting the government’s forces that have dramatically improved their defensive capabilities with anti-tank missiles that can destroyed the vehicles from a safe distance. To show the intensity of these attacks there were 58 car bombs in Baghdad during those same three months versus 230 in Anbar.

IS’s car bomb campaign is concentrated upon a few specific areas of the governorate. The Ramadi-Fallujah area had by far the most VBIEDs from June to July with 143 as IS is attempting to repel the government’s offensive there. After that there were 48 bombings in the Haditha-Hit area, which is in the western section of the province. Haditha is one of the few cities in that region still under government control. There were 15 VBIEDs in the Garma district to the northeast of Fallujah. The government has been trying to clear that area for the last several months. Finally, there were 9 car bombs in Thar Thar in northern Anbar, 2 in Amiriya Fallujah to the southeast, 7 in Nukhaib in the far south, and 6 in unknown locations. Those are all areas still under Baghdad’s authority.

These targets point to where IS probably has its car bomb factories in Anbar and the neighboring areas. Fallujah has been under IS control since at least the summer of 2014. It was the first city to fall to insurgents back in December 2013. IS was only one of many factions in Fallujah at that time, but eventually asserted its dominance. It is probably using Fallujah to send car bombs into Ramadi to the west and Garma to the east and all of the towns in between. IS also has suspected VBIED bases in southern Salahaddin in places like Taji that could be used to attack Garma as well. In the west, IS controls Hit and the areas around Haditha. Both are likely being used to build car bombs and attack that corridor. Thar Thar is right along the Salahaddin border so that governorate could be the source for most of the car bombs launched into that district. Amiriya Fallujah is by Babil where IS has car bomb bases in the north like in Mahmudiya, and Fallujah could be another source as well. Nukhaib is far out in the western desert, and far away from areas under IS control. It’s most likely that the organization has a VBIED assembly base somewhere outside of the town or simply sends them from Fallujah or the towns it controls out west on special assignments.

Since Anbar was the first place that IS was able to conquer territory in Iraq it has had the longest time to build up its networks there. Places like Fallujah are obvious VBIED bases, but it probably has others amongst the small towns up and down the Euphrates that runs through the governorate from east to west. It is also probably using its camps in southern Salahaddin and northern Babil as well to hit the Anbar cities on the western periphery. These factories are obviously well supplied as shown by the dramatic increase in bombings recently, and are able to deliver car bombs to all parts of the province. With IS controlling so much territory in Anbar it is unlikely that many of its car bomb factories will be disrupted any time soon and that these bombings will continue unabated.

Car Bombs In Anbar Jun-Aug 2015
Car Bombs
32 – 18 Destroyed
106 – 76 Destroyed
92 – 77 Destroyed

Car Bombs
Ramadi-Fallujah Corridor, Central Anbar
Haditha-Hit Corridor, West Anbar
Garma Area, East Anbar
Thar Thar Area, North Anbar
Nukhaib, South
Amiriya Fallujah, East Anbar

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