Iraqi military claims to retake control of 4 cities north of Baghdad

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State and its allies. Map created by Patrick Megahan and Bill Roggio for The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense today claimed it retook four cities between Baghdad and Samarra from the Islamic State during operations over the past week. From Al Shorfa:

Over the past two weeks, “the army managed to clear four new cities in Salahaddin province — al-Dhuluiyah, al-Ishaqi, al-Mutassim and Balad — and is now in full control of them”, said army commander in Salahaddin Lt. Gen. Sabah al-Fatlawi.

The army killed and arrested dozens of ISIL fighters in the process, and destroyed large quantities of their weapons and explosives, he said.

There is one problem with this story: no one seems to have been aware that these four cities were under Islamic State or allied forces control. Dhuluiyah has been considered contested, while at times heavy fighting has been reported at Balad and Ishaqi. Islamic State fighters have been launching attacks along the road north of Baghdad in an effort to cut off supplies to Samarra. But none of these cities were considered to be under enemy control.

Either the Iraqi Ministry of Defense is attempting to take credit for gaining ground it never lost, in an effort to bolster its image; or the situation on the road from Baghdad to Samarra has been far worse than reported. Neither scenario is a good sign.

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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  • jim says:

    We’re sort of playing semantics, here, aren’t we? Retaking a city and clearing it from a hotly contested city versus an enemy-controlled city…I think the point being made is that definitive control was regained.
    This LWJ article sort of reads as if Mr. Roggio is trying to discredit Iraqi security forces…which is completely unnecessary given that Iraqi security forces, as it has been seen, are perfectly capable of discrediting themselves.
    In this case, I don’t think their intentions were so nefarious. I think they might just be celebrating an apparent victory.

  • Mike E says:

    It is very frustrating to try and get a clear picture of Iraq from Iraqi websites. I think poor translation (probably computer driven) is one of the main reasons. Two examples out of many difficulties that I see are as follows. When the English translation says an area has been “cleansed” I used to assume full control was established, now I think it means a security operation was carried out and who knows how effective it was. Locations are hard to determine, for example the English translation will say “northern district of town xyz is under ISIS control” implying terrorists are in the town but examination of a map suggests the region in question is north OF xyz. What’s going on in the towns referenced in the story above? I don’t know but it could be that full or fuller control is established.
    Really, the bottom line is that with the massive air assets of the US it is pathetic that we do not have a much clearer picture of what is going on. Our extremely hands off approach is a disaster which we will pay for for a long tone.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    You shouldn’t read into my intentions. I merely was noting two possibilities.
    As you have said, the ISF has done a good enough job of discrediting itself. It doesn’t need me to pile on. After Tikrit and the failures there, it is difficult to accept anything they say without the proverbial truckload of salt.
    The point remains that these towns (with the exception of Dhuluiyah in the past) have never been reported to be contested. There have been reports of fighting & raids from the Islamic State. All of the sudden we are told the ISF scored a major victory by clearing them. Something doesn’t add up. And that was the point I was trying to make.
    Mike E.,
    Al Shorfa is an English-language site, not a translation generated site. But I do understand your points.

  • K says:

    Hahahaha… There is no more Iraq or Iraq Military.

  • Admir says:

    I wonder how long these 4 cities will be under the control of the Iraqi military. It seems like they are going back and forth with seizing and then losing the cities in a couple of weeks or months.

  • TallDave says:

    If I were in the ISF, I’d be waiting for US airstrikes.


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