Iraqi military retakes center of Ramadi from Islamic State

The Iraqi military, backed by tribal fighters and US airstrikes, regained control of the government center and main neighborhoods in Ramadi from the Islamic State after a week of heavy fighting. Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, fell to the Islamic State in May after Iraqi forces based there fled their posts.

“The [government] complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of Daesh [Islamic State] fighters in the complex,” Sabah al Numani, a spokesman for the Iraqi military coalition charged with retaking Ramadi, told Reuters.

The Islamic State has been “defeated in Ramadi” and that “the next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city,” Numani said.

The loss of Ramadi is a major blow to the Islamic State, which seized the provincial capital and raised its flag over the government center on May 15 after launching a coordinated assault on Iraqi units stationed in the city. The Anbar Operations Command, a corps-level command center that directed all operations in the province, also fell to the Islamic State that same day. Iraqi security forces abandoned the city after a wave of Islamic State suicide bombers attacked multiple targets. US officials claimed Iraq forces made a tactical withdrawal from the capital due to a sandstorm.

Iraqi Army units, backed by police and counterterroism units as well as local tribal fighters launched the final push to retake Ramadi on Dec. 22. The government forces, estimated at more than 10,000 strong, launched the attack from the north, south and west of the city. Iranian-backed Shiite militias from the Popular Mobilization Units appear to have been held back from the final push to retake Ramadi, however their presence near Habbaniyah in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor has been well established.

The US military supported the Iraqi offensive, launching scores of airstrikes in and around Ramadi over the past week. Over the past 24 hours, the US military said it conducted five airstrike that targeted “two separate ISIL tactical units … an ISIL fighting position, five ISIL command and control nodes, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL bed-down location, an ISIL artillery site, … [and] five ISIL-used roads.”

The number of Islamic State fighters defending Ramadi has been estimated at upwards of 1,000. On Dec. 21, Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US military, claimed that between 500 and 1,000 jihadists were defending the city, and that US airstrikes had killed at least 350 of them. The next day he estimated that between 250 and 350 remained inside Ramadi. On Dec. 26, a local Iraqi intelligence official claimed that 500 Islamic State fighters were present. The same day, another Iraqi official said that all the foreign Islamic State fighters had left Ramadi and that scores of local fighters remained behind.

While the Islamic State has been driven from central Ramadi, it still controls areas east and west of the city. The Islamic State still controls much of Anbar, including Hit, Ana, Rawa, Al Qaim, and Fallujah – which was the first Iraqi city to fall in January 2014. The Iraqi military and Shiite militias launched multiple operations to retake Fallujah over the past year, but failed.

The Islamic State has lost three major cities inside Iraq over the past year. Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias from the Popular Mobilization Units retook control of Tikrit and Baiji in Salahaddin province over the pst several months. The Iraqi government must maintain control of Tikrit and Baiji if it wants to retake control of Mosul. Despite the Islamic State’s recent setbacks, the jihadist group still controls large areas of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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10 Comments

  • cessch says:

    you really believe the rafidah were held back!?? they just changed uniforms instantly becoming isf. the lions of the caliphate were outnumbered by more then 10 to 1. look at the defense mounted. it is a testament in and of itself. roggio speak honestly.

    • James says:

      @cessch

      I believe you are just one of those that have just brainwashed yourselves into wishful thinking.

      You want to provide some concrete proof of your claims (like links, etc.) ? Go ahead, I dare you to.

    • Ravi says:

      Hello. I have been reading LWJ and Bill Roggio for years now and can testify he very much tells the truth based on facts. He is an American, but a surprisingly neutral commentator.

      Re. Islamic State, I agree they are staunch fighters.

      Yet, the outcomes of battles are what they are. It doesn’t matter that Iraq forces were 10,000 and IS 1,000 or even less. The point is that Ramadi is back in Baghdad’s hands. It doesnt matter how this was achieved. War is not a sports match. There is no fairness about it.

      For decades after WW2 complained the Americans won the war by inundating the battlefield with material. They were absolutely correct. But it doesn’t matter the Americans had 10 tanks for every German tank, or fired 10+ times more artillery rounds or whatever. The allies won, and that’s all that counts. They Germans were very brave and very skilled fighters. It didn’t do them any good in the final tally.

      Of course, I’d be interested in seeing how long before IS is back.

      I also wonder what’s happening at Tikrit and why Iraq 15 and 16 Divisions have not been mentioned in the fighting for Ramadi or in fact anywhere. Media talks about “Iraqi Army” victory at Ramadi. It was not. It was a victory of American airpower, with Iraq Army SF and Police SF playing a supporting role. The Sunni militias were irrelevant, and I suspect so was the Iraqi Army per se.

      • Ravi says:

        Answering my own question about 16 Div US has been training, here is a mention that a brigade took part in one axis of the Ramadi operation. AFAIK, 16 Div was raised at the big airbase outside of Baghdad – name slips my mind – for Mosul. Then some of it was deployed to protect, from the north, the Fallujah-Ramadi road. I dont think either 15 or 16 did any actual fighting at Ramadi http://breakingdefense.com/2015/11/iraq-us-trained-units-lead-counterattack-on-islamic-state/

        Also, as you all know, the routed Iraq Army was in such bad shape the US essentially wrote it off. 15 and 16 were raised and trained from scratch. First, it takes 2-years to do that before a division is ready for combat – this was the case even in WW2 where corners were cut all the time. So unless I see evidence of their fighting capability, I suspect they are no where near combat ready. Second, how do we know this second US training effort is going to succeed any more than the first effort once the US is not present?

  • Rasputin says:

    Very good. Only took you 7 months and out numbering the bad guys 100-1.

    • James says:

      @Rasputin,

      Rasputin, with all due respects to your comments, don’t believe everything you read in those media mob retorts. You say it was a ratio of 100 to 1? Seriously, where did the other 99 go? Shall I just speculate and surmise (as you most likely do) that they probably got up and ran like the chicken and swine dung that they are? Where do you get those kind of stats?

  • Arjuna says:

    Sadly, the enemy up and left before we could defeat him. They left behind a few of their foreign cadre and conducted a disciplined, tactical retreat. But we captured Ramadi and that’s a psychological victory. Shows you how much can be achieved by Iraqis and their allies working with quiet professionals. We don’t need straight-leg boots on the ground; we need more operators in amongst the friendlies, leading from the front, where Americans belong.

  • Verneoz says:

    “ISIS kicked out of Ramadi by Iraqi military.” Sounds good…looks good right? The Iraqi military is predominately Shiite and they despise the Sunnis of Anbar. Iran is driving this train and Obama is on the sidelines waiting for January 20 2017. Iraq will become an Iranian province of control. Thanks to the news media, and leftist academics, Obama’s legacy will be absent any of his failures in Iraq and the expansion of Islamic terror.

  • RanaSahib says:

    Good guys and bad guys, like kids playing cops and robbers, is a cartoon reality that Americans have never really outgrown.
    Pity the world with America at the helm playing, “with us or against us.”

    • Arjuna says:

      Obama leaves the world with ten times as many jihadists as the one he found. We are still playing the cartoon games with China and Russia. We can’t accept them as competitors and partners in a multi-polar world and accept the realities of nuclear triad-based national security. We still view great power wars as winnable and poke the partners accordingly. Nuclear Russian roulette. Nuts. Just nuts.

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