Iraqi troops, insurgents battle for Tikrit

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Iraqi military offensive to retake Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahaddin province, appears to have suffered its first setback as the military withdrew troops from the city after heavy fighting.

The Iraqi troops pulled back from much of Tikrit after a ground offensive, which started yesterday, “met stiff resistance” from insurgent forces in the city, the BBC reported. The insurgent alliance includes the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, and the Naqshbandi Army, a collection of former Baathists and ostensible Islamists intent on reestablishing Sunni dominance.

Several armored columns of Iraqi forces entered Tikrit yesterday from the south. Heavy fighting was reported at the provincial council building, Saddam’s Hussein’s presidential palace, Tikrit University, and elsewhere.

The news of the withdrawal from Tikrit comes one day after Iraqi military officials boasted that they “routed” the fighters, and had “complete success in clearing ISIS from the city, with some militant commanders among the 60 killed.”

Iraqi forces are said to have withdrawn to the town of Dijla near Tikrit to regroup.

Insurgents are reported to have heavily seeded the road south from Tikrit to the city of Samarra, which represents the edge of control northward for the Iraqi government, with IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.

The toll of the fighting, which began on June 27 when Iraqi forces air assaulted into Tikrit University, has yet to be fully disclosed. A twitter account of an ISIS supporter, who reported 24 hours ago that “the Safavids [Iranian Shia] retreat 75 KMs away from Tikrit,” claimed that 400 prisoners were taken, three helicopters were shot down, and 45 mechanized vehicles were destroyed. The report could not be confirmed.

At least one Iraqi helicopter was shot down during the June 27 air assault at the university, and another may have been damaged badly enough to not be able to leave the ground. Iraqi forces are said to have taken up positions at the university and a nearby base formerly called Camp Speicher by US forces. It is unclear if Iraqi forces remain at the two locations north of Tikrit.

ISIS and its allies seized control of Tikrit on June 11 after its forces captured Mosul to the north and pushed southward. Much of Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa, and Salahaddin provinces remain beyond the control of the Iraqi government, which is struggling to regroup its military after nearly two divisions of troops as well as police and border forces melted away or were defeated.

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

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    I find it a bit ironic that twitter post might be more reliable than Iraqi military officials, although I do miss “Baghdad Bob”. I saw one report that an Iraqi official said that most of the IED’s planted along the entrances of Tikrit have been detonated. That might have some validity, but the result of those detonations might something the Iraqi military official doesn’t want to talk about.

  • Alex says:

    I think this shows though the caution needed when reading MSM sources. Didn’t the normally reliable Wall Street Journal report a couple weeks back that Tikrit got cleared, with the help of Quds Force? It’s very hard to see through this fog of war.

  • blert says:

    Tikrit has the potential to become a very, very bloody fight.
    1) Iranian shock troops
    2) M1A1/ M1A2 tanks
    3) Su 25 ground attack jets
    4) It, Tikrit, stands in the way of Baghdad’s recovery of the route to Balad air base — a strategic asset.
    All of which points towards this being a win-or-die proposition for Malki’s faction.
    IF — and it’s a big if — the Shi’ite faction can isolate Tikrit… don’t be surprised if an artillery driven offensive hits the city.
    It doesn’t have any particularly strategic assets in its own right. Turning the whole area into rubble would be consistent with Soviet and Iranian battle tactics.
    Artillery dominated tactics are a strain on logistics. The Russians may provide all of the technical support required.
    (D30 — 122mm howitzers come to mind)
    Now that the blood is up, I’d expect just about anything is on the table.

  • Lisa says:

    If this is so, you now have a state that sponsors terrorism. In other words, you can attack that state with so much force that they will wish they had never ever messed with us. You would have to accept the fact that there will be innocent people killed but it is the only way because you cannot win a guerilla war and you cannot convince them that their form of religion is wrong and you never will.
    That is, if everybody is telling the truth and the intell is good.

  • Mike E says:

    It’s still unclear that the bayji refinary was ever taken by ISIS but the BBC reported that it was. As with the Tikrit situation, it’s very hard to believe much of what is reported.

  • Nick says:

    Why did the IA decide to retake Tikrit, besides its symbolic importance to the former regime? There are probably easier confidence targets that they could have gone after first.

  • bobbyd89 says:

    Caution needs to be practiced on both sides. Many western media sources were reporting 1,700 soldiers executed when it was around 170. Additionally, many places, including this site, were reporting 4 divisions melted away, while it is somewhere closer to 2 divisions. It seems that the western media still hasn’t learned its lesson from its mistakes earlier on in the Iraq War.

  • AMac says:

    A number of good links at this short ParaPundit post, ISIS: Self-Funding Like A Mafia.
    McClatchy piece on recently-released documents illuminating ISIS revenues.
    Al Jazeera article on the Iraqi Army’s collapse.
    Al Jazeera map and timeline.
    ISIS posted YouTube videos showing a column of thousands of captured IA soldiers moving through Mosul — perhaps more than one. Based on the linked Al Jazeerea account of “ghost soldiers” in the IA, Baghdad may have no good estimates of the number of soldiers and police actually on duty when Mosul, Bayji, Tikrit, etc. fell. And thus of the number missing. There’s been a notable lack of information about their fates — captured/murdered/escaped to Kurdistan/deserted. Srebrenica redux?

  • Rob says:

    Why do they want to take-over Tikrit? In my opinion, its all about the Holly $ and the oil, USA has had its hands in this pot since the get go and is the major influence & cause of all these wars and wants control of the area/s.. its that simple, its not about territory its about money!


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