Iraqi forces advance rapidly against ISIS in western Anbar

Iraqi forces have made considerable gains against ISIS in western Anbar since last Thursday, when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of operations to liberate the area.

According to the International Coalition, which is supporting the Iraqi forces in their endeavours against the so-called Islamic State, 33 locations and 3 main roads were liberated yesterday on day four of operations.

The Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), which are also taking part in the offensive alongside the Anbar Operations Command, Jazira Operations Command, Sunni Tribal Forces and four battalions of the local police, announced that the Iraq-Syria border south of al-Qa’im has largely been captured.

This will allow the joint forces to make their first forays into the ISIS-held border town, which has been controlled by the group since August 2014.

The gains made by the Iraqi forces come after significant progress at the end of last week and into the weekend. Following the announcement by Abadi, the forces took the village of Jabab and reclaimed the former headquarters of the Jazira Operations Command. The Rawa junction, a key area that links Rawa with the main highway and other areas of Anbar, was also retaken.

On Sunday, Sunni Tribal Forces liberated the districts of al-Amari, Tazilia, and Ritaja in western Rawa, coming into fierce conflict with ISIS militants. Many of the militants who escaped the battle reportedly left for al-Qa’im, according to Major General Noaman al-Zobai of the Iraqi army, which falls under the Anbar Operations Command umbrella for these operations.

The liberation of al-Qa’im and Rawa will all but end ISIS’ presence in Iraq. The group still maintains a presence in the Anbar desert, although the PMU intend to cleanse these areas of militants within the framework of the current operations.

Following their defeat in Iraq, ISIS will be left will a small patch of territory east of Deir ez-Zour in Syria, although this area is also declining daily.