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Monday, November 30, 2015

Iraqi military and special police preparing assault to retake Ramadi.

Link: Iraqi government forces close in on Ramadi.

With recent events in Syria and Paris dominating the international press, the Iraqi government's much-publicized offensive to retake Ramadi is no longer front-page news.  Actually, the struggle to retake Ramadi has taken much longer than the government and the Iraqi people expected.  Combat around Baiji and in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq have made for much more interesting journalism, as the average person begins to consider that the Ramadi campaign has become a stalemate.  Fortunately, in the last few days, news reports from the Iraqi government and the Pentagon indicate that the Iraqi Armed Forces are getting very close to recapturing the capital city of Anbar Province.  It is estimated that ISIS has roughly 600 to 1000 fighters still hunkered down in the few downtown neighborhoods that government forces have yet to reoccupy.  The fact that the Iraqi government is determined to complete this operation according to plan, with minimal casualties and damage to infrastructure, is very encouraging.  Its true that the campaign to retake the city has not followed the most ideal timetable, but the Iraqi authorities have been able to carefully search areas formally occupied by ISIS, in order to remove any improvised explosive devices or abandoned munitions.

Last Wednesday, Iraqi forces took possession of the Palestine Bridge in the northwest part of the city.  The bridge, which spans the Euphrates River, was a vital link to food and other supplies for ISIS.  The coalition air campaign continues to harass ISIS by strafing supply routes and bombing key defensive positions.  In fact, air support has proven particularly effective in destroying explosives that were purposely planted in abandoned structures in the downtown part of the city.  Aggressive action by the coalition air support has been instrumental in saving the lives of ground troops, as explosives disposal teams prepare to enter neighborhoods that have been cleared of ISIS snipers.  Iraqi authorities fully expect the remaining ISIS operatives to fight to the death.

Once the military campaign to liberate Ramadi is complete, the Iraqi military will focus on bringing relief to Haditha, which although occupied by Iraqi forces, has been under assault by ISIS for most of the year.  In recent weeks, coalition air attacks have successfully targeted ISIS positions and prevented the delivery of supplies to ISIS operatives near Haditha.  Al-Asad Air Base in outside of Haditha, and presents a valuable target for ISIS.  U.S. troops have been present at Al-Asad for some time, providing important training to Iraqi personnel.  For some inexplicable reason, the Obama Administration made no attempt to keep this particular bit of information confidential.  Once the international media got wind of the presence of U.S. troops at Al-Asad, ISIS wasn't far behind.  Can you imagine if ISIS were to overrun that base and take our young men and women prisoner?  Fortunately, recent combat in the Haditha area has severely compromised ISIS' ability to conduct offensive activity.  No doubt the Iraqis are also determined to remove ISIS from Fallujah, which sits northeast of Ramadi and is actually closer to Baghdad (as the crow flies).  The various Shi'a militias were more-or-less assigned the task of retaking Fallujah, while the Iraqi Regular Army and Special Police targeted Ramadi.  At various times over the past six months, it appeared that Fallujah would fall first.  The fact that Ramadi will indeed be reoccupied by government forces before the Iranian-backed militias have removed ISIS from Fallujah will be celebrated in Baghdad, where the populace has begun to voice its annoyance at what is perceived to be Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs.

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