Conflict

Iraqi forces launch major operation to push ISIS out of Iraq-Syria border areas

Iraq

The Iraqi army, with the support of the Popular Mobilisation Forces and the International Coalition, have launched an offensive aimed at eliminating the last remnants of ISIS in three Iraqi provinces.

Pockets of ISIS presence still exist in areas that lie between the provinces of Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin of Iraq. This area is known as the “Desert Triangle” and the operation to cleanse this region of ISIS elements has been named the “Will of Victory”. The perseverance of ISIS presence in the area has been put down to the difficulties of pursuing the group in desert terrain, as well as the existence of tunnels of which ISIS has been making use to preserve their sleeper cells, which have gained importance over the past two years since the dramatic downfall of the group.

Military sources have revealed that around 30,000 military personnel are involved in the Will of Victory operation, which includes different elements of the Iraqi Armed Forces as well as the International Coalition participation. According to Iraq’s Security Media Cell, the operation will be conducted by the Iraqi Army, the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) and tribal groups affiliated to the PMU.

This is considered to be the largest military operation against ISIS since the liberation efforts of 2017 that led to the liberation of Mosul, ISIS’ former de facto capital. Efforts to clear the area of ISIS units have been ongoing over the past two years, however the perseverance of the terrorist group has led to the launch of this major operation to finally eradicate their physical presence in the country. This operation can be seen as a final endeavour in the physical fight against ISIS in Iraq as operations in the desert areas have been dragging on for months but without a clear final result. Operations until now have largely been launched on the basis of emergencies rather than a fully fledged offensive.

In the first day of the operations, Iraqi forces reportedly discovered a large workshop used by ISIS militants to create Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and rockets in the province of Salahuddin.