The Iraqi forces completed the first phase of their operation to free the last territory the Islamic State holds in the country, which is in western Anbar. The town of Qaim was seized along with the Husaiba border crossing. Originally the Iraqis were hoping to complete this simultaneously with freeing Hawija in Kirkuk, but that proved beyond their capabilities. Now that Qaim is taken the next target will be Rawa and sweeping up the border region, and then all of Iraq will be free.
After the battle of Mosul, several Iraqi generals believed that the Islamic State was finished and could be wrapped up in the country in one fell swoop. They pushed for launching operations in Hawija and western Anbar simultaneously to end the group’s occupation of the country. That was initially approved and a move on Rawa in west Anbar was made at the same time as southern Kirkuk was attacked in September. The Iraqi forces turned out to lack the planning and capabilities to pull off such a move and ended up freeing Hawija first. The west Anbar operation didn’t restart until the end of October as a result.
Starting on October 26, the joint forces were finally committed to Anbar in force. The day before the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets over the region telling the population that they would soon be freed. By October 29, there were stories that IS was pulling back its forces and fleeing across the Syrian border. The next day, the government forces were outside of Qaim, but were forced to halt due to sand storms. On October 31, the Akkas gas fields had been taken as well as some towns surrounding Rawa. Finally, on November 2, the Iraqi forces attacked Qaim itself from the east, reached the center of town and liberated it by the next day along with the Husaiba border crossing. The plan was to take the border area and Qaim and envelop the IS fighters in the Rawa area. That didn’t work out completely as hoped for as a number of insurgents were able to get across into Syria. Still, the fighting appeared to be relatively light, and Rawa is now hemmed in. When that is taken, IS will no longer control any territory in Iraq. That will be a huge victory after the collapse Baghdad suffered in 2014.
Baghdad Post, “Top ISIS leader killed in military operation in Anbar,” 9/26/17
Al Baghdadiya News, “Al Jazeera and Al Badia operations control Al Qaim,” 11/3/17
BBC, “Iraqi forces launch assault on last IS bastion of al-Qaim,” 10/26/17
Al Ghad Press, “The popular crowd begins to clean the homes adjacent to the Qaim district in preparation to break in,” 11/1/17
- “Video … Freed the village of Um al-Luz and the destruction of 7 car bombs in Qaim,” 10/17/17
Al Mada, “The joint forces are preparing to break into the Anbar, leaving Rawa behind,” 10/8/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi army commander said 85 of Islamic State-held Qaim recaptured,” Iraqi News, 11/2/17
Mostafa, Nehal, “25 Islamic State militants killed, villages liberated in western Anbar,” Iraqi News, 10/27/17
- “Army forces reach to Islamic State’s stronghold in Anbar,” Iraqi News, 10/30/17
- “Iraqi PM sys troops retook Anbar’s Qaim in “record time,”” Iraqi News, 11/3/17
- “Islamic State members flee western Anbar toward Syria,” Iraqi News, 10/29/17
- “Two soldiers, 13 IS militants killed in confrontations in western Anbar,” Iraqi News, 11/2/17
NINA, “5 Villages, A Gas Station Liberated West Of Anbar,” 10/28/17
Al Noor News, “The Liberation Of The Obeidi Neighborhood And A Residential Complex And Six Villages West Anbar,” 10/31/17
Al Sumaria, “Yarallah declares control of first and second Akkas west Anbar,” 10/31/17
Xinhua, “Iraqi forces gain more ground in last IS stronghold in western Iraq,” 10/31/17
-“Iraqi forces recapture Husaibah border crossing with Syria,” 11/4/17