Randi Nord | The Pontiac Tribune
Days after the Iraqi government declared “victory” in Ramadi, ISIS began carrying out counterattacks along the outskirts of the city. The Iraqi government plans on using the same strategy it did in Ramadi to defeat ISIS in Mosul– but likely not until autumn.
ISIS ATTACKS RAMADI– AGAIN
On December 24th, the Iraqi army announced plans to reclaim the city of Ramadi from ISIS’ control within 72 hours. The Islamic State had reportedly controlled Ramadi since May of 2015.
The question on everyone’s mind: what took so long?
According the the United States, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was reluctant to allow US ground troops to help the fight and once flat out denied an offer for help from the United States; which would have included attack helicopters and combat advisers. The United States Military claims this reluctance is reflective of Iran’s influence and the Shiite factions who oppose American influence in Iraq.
The Iraqi Army being mostly Shiite; while Ramadi is mostly Sunni.
Was the Iraqi government simply trying to avoid unnecessary casualties and devastation?
The Iraqi Army has been most successful when allied with Shia militia groups, but in the Ramadi situation help from the Shia militias was avoided considering their unfavorable history with the Sunni population. If the Iraqi Army worked in tandem with the Shia groups in Ramadi, they would have run a risk of Sunni resistance from the civilian population living in fear under ISIS’ rule.
It appears the Iraqi government may have been trying to avoid a repeat of what happened following the liberation of Tikrit from ISIS in March of last year.
IRAQ CLAIMS VICTORY IN RAMADI– BUT AT WHAT COST?
Nonetheless, on December 27th, Iraqi forces announced victory in Ramadi. The definition of the word “victory” is up for debate in this situation.
Airstrikes destroyed nearly the entire city (about 80%) and the few civilians left will not be able to return for some time– thousands of civilians were reportedly still present when the battle began.
These civilians now must make a choice: flee North-east to ISIS dominated territory, or flee to another town with an unknown future.
The Iraqi Army, however, deemed the strategy so successful that immediately after the “victory” in Ramadi, the government was announcing plans to use the same strategy as a model in other cities– Mosul being next on the list.
The plan is to tweak the strategy by learning from Ramadi and pinpointing ISIS strongholds more specifically.
ISIS WON’T GIVE UP RAMADI WITHOUT A FIGHT
This self-proclaimed victory was extremely short-lived because just days later declaring such, ISIS began counterattacks on the edges of the already devastated city. These ISIS attacks have involved several suicide bombers and car bombs.
On Friday, ISIS militants attacked a military base near Ramadi. This resulted in the Iraqi Army fighting back via airstrikes with help from the US-led coalition. Sources told Al-Jazeera that these latest attacks have killed at least 11 Iraqi security forces.
Clearly, ISIS is not going to give up valuable territory without a fight.
A fight that is extremely difficult to carry out considering that the number of ISIS fighters is unknown, according to BBC Middle East analyst Sebastian Usher.
Throughout 2016, the Iraqi government plans on destroying ISIS bomb-making facilities near Mosul, the oil refining hub Qayyarah, and several towns outside of Mosul.
Airstrikes are planned to begin in summer encircling the city of Mosul and the main attack will be carried out when the summer heat dies down in autumn.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR IRAQ?
Waiting until summer or autumn to reclaim Mosul from ISIS is worrisome. It cannot be a favorable idea to underestimate ISIS’ stronghold and what the militant group is capable of accomplishing in the coming months. Many thousands of civilians are already displaced and this could force them into a position of survival; either flee Iraq to join the refugees, or join ISIS.
Furthermore, it is clear that airstrikes do not work.
ISIS simply retreats during attacks to reappear later when the fighting ceases. Reclaiming territory from ISIS permanently would have to be extremely far-reaching and invasive in order to prove successful.
And more so, how does one defeat an ideology? An ideology with support throughout Africa and even Southeast Asia. An ideology that influences lone-wolf attacks in Western countries.
With propaganda reaching across the globe including magazines, social networking, and even a radio station, there isn’t much that will stop ISIS from gaining power in vulnerable cities and areas.