As the west Anbar campaign continues the Iraqi forces are preparing to take on Shirqat in Salahaddin as well as Hawija in south Kirkuk.
The Iraqi forces launched a pincer attack upon northwest Anbar. First, they moved on Ana from four directions taking two neighborhoods and attacked a third. The U.S. led Coalition was providing air support. Ana is the largest town the Iraqis have taken on so far in this campaign, and the Islamic State is finally putting up a fight. There are also plenty of civilians, which complicates things. Other units to the south in Akashat started heading north towards Qaim as well. Finally, the day before the Iraqi Air Force carried out air strikes in Syria near Anbar in coordination with Damascus, Iran and Russia. This was the first time Baghdad said it was working with those countries in air raids. The goal of this campaign is to clear the entire western border of Anbar. This started in the center in Akashat, and then a second front opened in the northwest. These two are now looking to combine to ultimately seize Qaim. Other units are supposed to head south as well down the border. The air strikes were probably to destroy IS units and supplies in Syria, which have been used to support its operations in Anbar.
Originally, the joint forces were to take Hawija first, and then Anbar was going to happen simultaneously, but disputes between Baghdad and Irbil are holding things up. On September 19, Kamal Kirkuki the Peshmerga commander for west Kirkuk said that the battle plan had been agreed upon between the central government, the Peshmerga, and the U.S. led coalition. The next day however, the Peshmerga Ministry denied any agreement had been made. Another issue is the role of the Hashd. Wasta Rasul, a Peshmerga commander in south Kirkuk objected to the Hashd taking part. At the same time, Kurdish officials met with Badr’s Hadi Amiri and deputy Hashd leader Abu Mahdi Muhandis. In the meantime, the Iraqi Air Force continued to drop leaflets over Hawija telling the population that their liberation is coming. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi also visited troops in Makhmour, Ninewa, which will take part in the operation. While there were contradictory statements coming out, there appears to be a plan, and meetings between the different players. The Kurdish forces in Kirkuk say that things have been worked out, which is more believable than the Peshmerga Ministry back in Irbil. Hopefully that means the differences have been worked out and things can move forward.
Finally, the Shirqat district in northern Salahaddin is also on the agenda. Federal Police commander General Raed Shakir Jawadat told the press his forces were ready to storm the area. The Golden Division, police, and four Hashd Brigades are supposed to participate. The Iraq Newspaper reported that the district may be attacked Thursday, September 21. Finally, Premier Abadi reviewed units ready for the battle. Again, since Hawija is delayed, Shirqat will move forward. Forces are already in position, and they have been shelling Islamic State forces for a few days now.
Baghdad Post, “Iraqi Federal police prepare to storm Shirqat,” 9/20/17
Bas News, “Baghdad Hands Hawija Operation Plan to Peshmerga,” 9/20/17
- “No Plan Yet to Include Peshmerga in Hawija Assault: Official,” 9/20/17
Buratha News, “Abadi from Shirqat: We are in the final stages of liberating the entire land and securing the borders,” 9/20/17
- “Abadi in Makhmour in preparation for the Hawija offensive,” 9/20/17
Al Ghad Press, “Amiri and Muhandis discuss with the Peshmerga preparations for the liberation of Hawija,” 9/20/17
- “The joint forces stormed Al-Nasr neighborhood in Ana,” 9/20/17
Iraq Newspaper, “Reporter For The Iraqi Newspaper At Dawn Thursday, The Start Of The Battle For Al-Shirqat,” 9/20/17
Al Mada, “Iraqi raids in depth in Syria in coordination with the Quartet,” 9/19/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi army forces invade Anbar’s Annah, retake 2 areas,” Iraqi News, 9/20/17
New Sabah, “The joint forces are approaching the center of Ana and Daash are falling back,” 9/20/17
Rudaw, “Main offensive to defeat ISIS in Hawija begins after referendum: Peshmerga,” 9/19/17
Shafaaq News, “The popular crowd announces the liberation of the line between Akashat and Qaim,” 9/20/17
Al Sumaria, “Air Force planes drop hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Hawija and its surrounding areas,” 9/18/17