DAESH loses half of its territory in Iraq

DAESH has lost half of the territory it held in Iraq after successful recapture of Ramadi by Iraqi army amid preparations for retaking Mosul

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Members of the Iraqi security forces hold an Iraqi flag with DAESH flag which they had pulled down at a government complex in the city of Ramadi, December 28, 2015

DAESH has lost half the territory they controlled in Iraq after the successful retaking of Ramadi by the Iraqi army on Monday. Ramadi is the capital of Iraq's western province of Anbar, and its loss to DAESH in May 2015 was considered a huge loss and strategic blow to the Iraqi army and the anti-DAESH coalition.

DAESH held 40 percent of Iraq in 2014, but that is now down to 20 percent, according to local media reports. However, large parts of central and northern Iraq are still controlled by DAESH and have been since June 2014.

Retaken areas include the Diyala governorate in the east, which was also lost to DAESH but recaptured in a fierce counter offensive in January. Diyala is only 100 kilometres away from Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.

In addition to Diyala, the city of Tikrit in the Salahuddin province was recaptured by the Iraqi army from DAESH in March. The operation was backed by the US-led coalition and allied Shiite militia Hashd al Shaabi, as well as local Sunni fighters.

Hashd al Shaabi, known in English as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, are an Iranian backed Iraqi Shiiite militia comprising of smaller groups all unified under one front. They did not take part in the Ramadi operations to avoid tensions with the Sunni population.

Also in the Salahuddin province, the oil rich city of Baiji saw DAESH terrorists driven out of it in June by the Iraqi army along with the help of the Shiite militias.

Mosul remains the biggest city still in the hands of DAESH, although the Iraqi army paired with the Kurdish forces from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq took control of Mosul Dam in August. The city of Mosul itself remains a huge quest for all parties.

The KRG’s Peshmerga forces also successfully drove DAESH out of Sinjar, an intensely strategic Iraqi town, after a fierce offensive in November.

But large areas of the Nineveh and Anbar governorates, geographically the largest governorates in the country, are still under the control of DAESH.

Members of the Iraqi security forces sit in the back of a military vehicle at a government complex in the city of Ramadi, December 28, 2015.

Over the years, DAESH terrorism and clashes between warring parties have destroyed the country's economy and displaced millions of civilians from their hometowns. 

Iraqi army will need Kurdish forces to retake Mosul

In the quest to retake the largest Iraqi city under the control of DAESH, Mosul, the Iraqi army will need the help of KRG’s Kurdish fighters, Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters.

Mosul is 400 km (250 miles) north of Baghdad, and has been designated by the Iraqi government as the next target to be liberated from DAESH after Ramadi.

"Mosul needs good planning, preparations, commitment from all the key players," Zebari said in an interview with Reuters on Monday in Baghdad.

"Peshmerga is a major force; you cannot do Mosul without Peshmerga," said Zebari, who is ethnically Kurdish.

Mosul’s residents are 2 million, mostly Sunni and have been under DAESH’s control since June.

The battle of Mosul would be "very, very challenging", Zebari said. "It will not be an easy operation, for some time they have been strengthening themselves, but it's doable."

Zebari also said the Iraqi army may give support roles to Hashd al Shaabi and local Sunni forces in the attack on Mosul.

Zebari said if Mosul was recaptured then it would effectively mark the end of DAESH in adjacent Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria.

"It's there where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate," he said, referring to the group's leader. "It is literally their capital."

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said on Monday that DAESH would be defeated in 2016 with the army planning to move to Mosul. "We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to DAESH," he said in a speech, praising the army's "victory" in Ramadi.

TRTWorld and agencies