Iraq launches counteroffensive against Islamic State to take back Ramadi

By Andrew V. Pestano

BAGHDAD, May 26 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government launched an offensive military campaign on Tuesday, to drive the Islamic State out of Anbar province, where the militant Islamists recently took control of the city of Ramadi.

The Iraqi operation will be supported by Shia and Sunni paramilitary forces. The security forces will attempt to cut off the Islamic State in Ramadi after moving south from Salahuddin province.


A counteroffensive by Iraq has been developing since Ramadi completely fell to Islamic State control on May 17. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden pledged to support Iraq.

The offensive was announced by Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization), a volunteer militia force made up of dozens of Shia Muslims.

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Al-Assadi said the operation would "not last for a long time" and that new weapons will be used that will "surprise the enemy."

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently said the Islamic State's capture of Ramadi illustrated the Iraqi military lacked the will to fight.

"What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter told CNN. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [the Islamic State] and defend themselves."


The fall of Ramadi has been called a "setback" by the Obama administration -- a temporary defeat and that will not change the White House's strategy of fighting the Islamic State.

The Obama administration rejects the use of U.S. ground combat troops in the fight against the Islamic State, instead supporting a strategy of air strikes and strategic special operation missions to kill or capture key militant leaders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Ramadi could be recaptured "within days" and defended the Iraqi military's withdrawal from Ramadi, refuting Carter's claims.

"I am sure [Carter] was fed with the wrong information," al-Abadi told BBC News. "They have the will to fight but when they are faced with an onslaught by [the Islamic State] from nowhere... with armored trucks packed with explosives, the effect of them [being blown up] is like a small nuclear bomb -- it gives a very, very bad effect on our forces."

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