United States-led airstrikes barraged western Iraq yesterday, backing the country’s efforts after the Iraqi government declared yesterday that it was going to retake from ISIS the western province of Anbar, which includes the cities of Ramadi and Falluja. The airstrikes, consisting of bomber, attack, fighter-attack and drone aircraft, come one week after President Obama promised a long-term campaign in order to defeat ISIS. The attacks marked a significant escalation in the United States’ involvement in Iraq and its battle with terror group ISIS.
The coalition’s airstrikes carried out Monday more than doubled the typical daily activities taking place recently. However, United States officials cautioned that this operation was just the beginning of a likely long-term campaign due to ISIS tactics. In Ramadi, ISIS militants have had approximately 2 months to increase their defenses and to wire buildings with bombs.
One important question is whether the coalition-led offensive has the support of many groups that all consider ISIS the enemy but also have tense relations with one another. For example, within Iraq, this includes the Shiite fighters from the south and some Sunni forces. As far as the rest of the world, the key players include the United States and Iran, who obviously have their issues with each other. However, despite their differences, the Anbar operation included Shiite militias, Sunni tribal forces, regular army forces, special forces and federal policemen.
Greater than one year after ISIS took large regions of northern and western Iraq, its militants continue to hold the area, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. By taking Ramadi, ISIS strengthened its hold on Anbar, a large desert region that allows it to hold Mosul to the north and cross easily into its territory in Syria.
The United Nations released a report yesterday which stated that greater than 3,300 Iraqi civilians were killed and greater than 7,400 were injured during the five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015. The report also stated that ISIS likely committed war crimes and possibly genocide during its attacks on Iraqi civilians this year.