The US military has expanded its air operations against the Islamic State, striking at the group “southwest of Baghdad” over the past several days.
“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the President’s speech last Wednesday,” US Central Command noted in a press release issued late yesterday.
The airstrike destroyed “an ISIL fighting position southwest of Baghdad that was firing on ISF [Iraqi security forces] personnel.”
Also, the US military “destroyed six ISIL vehicles” near Sinjar in Ninewa province. CENTCOM has launched 162 airstrikes in Iraq since the US intervened on Aug. 7.
Although CENTCOM did not say where the airstrikes southwest of Baghdad have taken place, in all likelihood they occurred in Jurf al Sakhar in northern Babil province. The Islamic State and its allies have successfully occupied much of northern Babil and have launched ferocious attacks against Iraqi security forces in the area. The Iraqi military has repeatedly claimed to have cleared Jurf al Sakhar, but the Islamic State continues to hold ground there. [See Joel Wing’s report on northern Babil from July 9 at Musings on Iraq; little has changed in northern Babil in the two-plus months since it was written. Also note this prescient report from May on the deteriorating situation in Babil.]
Northern Babil is a key front for the Islamic State, and yet it receives little attention as the fighting in the north (Ninewa), center (Salahaddin and Diyala), and west (Anbar) tends to dominate the news coverage. Northern Babil is one of five key “belts” around Baghdad that have been targeted as part of the Islamic State’s strategy to strangle Baghdad. [See LWJ report, ISIS, allies reviving ‘Baghdad belts’ battle plan.]
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