The towns of Anah, Rawa and al-Qa’im in the western Anbar governorate were among the last areas of territory in Iraq still held by ISIS militants. Adjacent to the Syria border, this area was taken by ISIS in June 2014. The offensive by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to retake these areas began on the 19th September 2017 and the Iraqi forces have made rapid progress, liberating the strategic area of Akashat, securing the Jordan-Baghdad highway before moving to Anah.
The Iraqi armed forced initially began by encircling the town before entering. Iraqi forces began their offensive by liberating the Jazira area, east of al-Rawa in order to cut ISIS supply to the town.
From the northeast, the Iraqi forces took the al-Sina’a and al-Zira’i districts. After they surrounded al-Anah from all sides, the Iraqi army stormed the town, taking control of the main police station and the town’s industrial area. Within an hour there were reports that the forces had taken the whole town from ISIS.
After the liberation of the town from ISIS, civilians began pouring out of their homes to welcome the Iraqi armed forces and thank them for freeing them from the grips of terror. “I don’t believe it, I can’t describe the happiness I am feeling with this event. Our happiness is indescribable, indescribable because we can not believe that we have been liberated from ISIS”, said one woman, who could barely express her joy at being liberated.
However, from January to early September 2017, the United Nations (UN) estimates that 38,000 people have displaced from West Anbar. In recent weeks, the pace of displacement has increased rapidly with 4,000 people from West Anbar arriving at camps near the liberated city of Ramadi in Anbar.
The Iraqi forces are simultaneously carrying out operations in and around Hawija in an attempt to rid ISIS of all its remaining territory in one go.