Unlike previous government campaigns against the Islamic State the west Anbar operation will be conducted in stages. The first, was the taking of Akashat, which occurred over the weekend. The Iraqi forces will move on the Iraq-Syrian border and a number of other towns before taking Rawa, Qaim and Ana, the ultimate goals.
On September 16, the Iraqi forces seized Akashat. A mixed force of the army’s 1st and 8th Divisions, Anbar police units, Hashd, Tribal Hashd, and border police all took part. Rather than putting up a fight, the Islamic State withdrew beforehand. While there was no combat inside the town, the Iraqi Air Force claimed it killed over 100 insurgents. The Air Force also dropped leaflets over west Anbar telling people their liberation was coming soon. A similar message was broadcast on FM radio. Syrian forces were said to be moving towards the border at the same time. After taking the town, army units were busy removing explosives from roads heading towards the west. Akashat was a very small town surrounded by wide open areas. This is the type of terrain, which IS does not usually defend because the group is vulnerable to artillery and air strikes. The Iraqi forces are expected to stay in Akashat for a short period before the roadways are cleared, and then head towards more western towns. In previous campaigns the Iraqi forces have constantly pushed forward to apply pressure on the insurgents. This time, it appears that that the government is going to be more deliberate, and go town by town. Heavy IED fields also appear to be a concern. Without them being taken care of supplies and other support can’t be delivered to the lead units. Originally, some Iraqi generals wanted to attack west Anbar, Shirqat in Salahaddin and Hawija in Kirkuk simultaneously. Political disputes between the Kurdish and central government however have put Hawija on indefinite hold, so Anbar is going first.
AIN, “Learn about the military units involved in the liberation of Akashat,” 9/16/17
Baghdad Post, “Iraqi Forces kill 120 ISIS terrorists, including 5 leaders in Akashat,” 9/17/17
- “Iraqi forces secure road to Annah, remove landmines,” 9/17/17
- “US-backed Iraqi forces prepare for recapturing Qa’im, says spokesman,” 9/18/17
Chmaytelli, Maher, Francis, Ellen, “Iraqi forces capture area on Syria border from Islamic State: military,” Reuters, 9/16/17
Hath Al-Youm, “A large-scale operation was launched to liberate Akashat area,” 9/16/17
Al Mada, “The troops stop at Akashat and prepare for a difficult operation in Qaim,” 9/18/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi army opens route preparing to invade IS haven in Anbar,” Iraqi News, 9/17/17
New Sabah, “Military units are preparing to move towards Qaim district to free Ana from Daash,” 9/17/17
Al Qurtas News, “In pictures – to residents of areas in west Anbar – do not neglect this news!” 9/16/17
Rudaw, “Daash withdraws from Akashat battle without a fight,” 9/16/17
Shafaaq News, “Iraqi forces are advancing rapidly in their campaign in west Anbar and storming the residential complex of Akashat,” 9/16/17
- “Joint operations announced the start of a military campaign in west Anbar to secure the international border,” 9/16/17
Al Sumaria, “The popular crowd enters the center of Akashat,” 9/16/17