The Islamic State has overrun the Anbar Operations Command in Ramadi and has taken effective control of the entire city. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Iraqi forces in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor are in complete disarray and are withdrawing from Habbaniyah and other areas.
Just two days after assaulting and taking control of Ramadi’s government center, the Islamic State launched a coordinated suicide attack against the Anbar Operations Command headquarters, a corps-level command that is located in northwestern Ramadi. At least three suicide bombers opened the fighting by detonating their explosives at the gates of the headquarters, killing five Iraqi soldiers, according to The Associate Press. The suicide assault was followed by a wave of Islamic State fighters.
Iraqi troops then retreated from the command center, according to Jean-Marc Mojon, AFP’s bureau chief in Iraq.
“IS takes over #Anbar operations command in #Ramadi after #Iraq forces retreat: governor spokesman,” Mojon tweeted.
Mojon’s report was mirrored by Islamic State supporters. “Complete control of the operational command headquarters,” one stated.
Islamic State fighters are said to have launched an assault on Camp Ar Ramadi, the military base which is just west of the city. The 8th Iraqi Brigade and other units are stationed at Camp Ar Ramadi.
The Islamic State later released a statement claiming to have taken control of the 8th Brigade headquarters.
“Islamic State imposes control over the full city of Ramadi after storming 8th Brigade, the most important Safavid [a derogatory term for Iranians] stronghold,” an official statement by ‘Amaq News, which is linked to the jihadist group.
US airpower was unable to halt the Islamic State’s takeover of Ramadi. The US military said that it launched seven airstrikes between May 16 and May 17 that targeted “one large and five small ISIL tactical units and an ISIL IED facility, destroying four ISIL resupply structures, three ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, two ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL VBIED and an ISIL motorcycle.” ISIL is the outdated acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or Syria). The US military continues to use the term ISIL despite the fact that the jihadist group changed its name to the Islamic State nearly one year ago.
Iraqi military officials have downplayed the loss of Ramadi and the Anbar Operations Command. The Ministry of Defense is claiming that the Awakening controls 75 percent of Ramadi’s sports stadium and the military is in “full control” of the Mukhabarat neighborhood, according to the All Iraq News Agency.
Iraqi forces in retreat in Anbar
After the fall of the Anbar Operations Command, unconfirmed reports indicate that Iraqi forces in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor are in full retreat. Several videos released by unofficial Islamic State outlets claim to show Iraqi security forces withdrawing from Habbaniyah and Khaladiyah. The authenticity of the videos cannot be independently confirmed by The Long War Journal.
If the reports that the Iraqi military is pulling out of Habbaniyah and Khaladiyah, then the Islamic State is in effective control of all of Anbar provinces’ major cities and towns from Fallujah to Al Qaim. The town of Baghdadi, which has exchanged hands between the government and military several times, and nearby Al Asad Air Base, remain under Iraqi government control. Several hundred US military trainers are based at Al Asad. Additionally, Haditha and its dam are currently garrisoned by the Iraqi military and supporting tribes.
The Islamic State launched its latest offensive to take control of Ramadi at the beginning of April, several days after Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said that Iraq’s “next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it.” By the end of April, the Islamic State advanced into several neighborhoods and killed and wounded scores of Iraqi troops. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi and Islamic State releases video of recent battles near Ramadi.]
The city has been contested since January 2014, when the jihadist group took control of Fallujah and several other cities and towns in Anbar.
Photos allegedly showing Iraqi security personnel retreating from Habbaniyah: