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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Iraqi Security Forces prepare for final push to retake Ramadi, as ISIS continues use of suicide bombers.

Links: A. ISIS suicide attacks target ISF forces in eastern Ramadi.
           B. ISF prepares final push to retake Ramadi.

In early July, the Iraqi government announced with a bit of fanfare that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), alongside the Shi'a militias/Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), would begin a military offensive dedicated to liberating Anbar Province from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).  Almost simultaneously, ISIS increased random fire and SVBIED attacks in Diyala and Salah ad-Din Provinces, to distract from the ISF operation in Anbar, and to encourage Provincial Administrations to request a return of their troops from the Ramadi front.  The Iraqi government has faced a great deal of pressure because of the time it has taken to liberate both Ramadi and Fallujah.  In reality, the ISF and the PMUs have rationally adhered to the strategic plan originally agreed upon, which requires the removal of all explosives and booby traps, so that the civilian population of Ramadi that has been living in exile in Baghdad, can return in safety.  Also, the ISF, which consists of both special police units and the Iraqi Army, has been very deliberate in its movements, taking care to consolidate all strategic gains and discourage a return by ISIS.  The Iraqi people have been subject before to the occupation by ISIS, liberation, and re-occupation by ISIS, and it is important that the groundwork is laid to make the departure of ISIS permanent.  On Sunday, ISIS launched SVBIED attacks and fired artillery at ISF positions, killing 17 soldiers and 6 Sunni militiamen.  The ISF responded with heavy shelling of ISIS positions, alongside what has become a stepped-up presence by the allied air coalition, which has left ISIS occupied areas of the city in rubble.  Also, as mentioned in Link A, a major commander in the Iraqi Army serving on the Anbar front, was removed from duty by officials in Baghdad.  The announcement from the government would only comment that the general in question was guilty of dereliction of duty.

On Saturday, the Iraqi government has announced the formation of a joint police and Iraqi Army force, 10,000 strong, to renew the offensive to liberate Iraq.  Plans to transfer these troops to Anbar had been underway for some time, and the second wave of the offensive which began in July, was about to commence.  Some neighborhoods in eastern Ramadi have become intense battlegrounds, as city blocks change hands repeatedly.  In particular, ISIS has focused its attention on retaking the Husaibiya District, but so far its efforts have been unsuccessful.  The Iraqi military command is optimistic that the increase in troops will help the ISF to overwhelm ISIS positions in relatively short order, and that within the next few weeks, the ISF will be able to focus its operations on completing the liberation of Fallujah; presently, ISIS positions in Fallujah are under intense pressure from allied air attacks and regular attacks from the PMUs. 

Iraqi civilians in Baghdad are increasing pressure on the government for the relief of Haditha, which is located to the northwest of Ramadi, and has been under siege by ISIS since mid-July.  Up to now, the city has withstood the attempts at occupation by ISIS forces, and any positive developments from eastern Anbar can only increase pressure on ISIS to take Haditha, which they publicly declared as a target in July. 

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