Iraqi Forces Strengthen Positions Near Al-Qaim

Although the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have liberated the town of al-Qaim near the Iraq-Syria Border, much to the relief of its citizens, the region remains a focal point of activity. Many of the ISIS militants who survived the battle against the ISF in al-Qaim have since fled to the Syrian town of Albu Kamal across the border. There, the militants are fighting a losing battle against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies.

The ISF here in al-Qaim is now tasked with ensuring that the border remains safe and the militants are not able to return to Iraq. They have taken defensive positions along the border, reinforcing them and, at parts, raising berms and barricades. At present, the plan is to move to the remaining ISIS-held areas across Anbar and Nineveh Provinces. The militant group still controls a number of minor towns and villages but much of their holdings now remain in the open desert. With the ISF turning its attention to the town of Rawa next, it would appear that the group has little future in Iraq in the coming months.

Since the liberation of al-Qaim, there have been numerous reports across media that the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) have crossed into Syria to assist the SAA in capturing Albu Kamal. The PMU has long lobbied Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for permission to cross into Syria to fight ISIS there. At the time of al-Qaim being liberated, these reports were denied by all arms of the Iraqi Government, ISF and the PMU. However, since then, Prime Minister Abadi has given the PMU limited permission to enter Syria if the militants there posed a threat to the PMU. Indeed, numerous reports indicate that the PMU assisted the SAA during the final push into Albu Kamal, whose capture was formally announced by the Syrian Ministry of Defence on Thursday.