Theodore Bell, and Patrick Martin isw
Key Takeaway: ISIS’s seizure of Ramadi city May 15-18 has altered disposition of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar province and challenges the Iraqi government’s ability to mount successful counteroffensives. The two primary military positions remaining in Anbar after Ramadi’s fall are Habaniya, east of Ramadi and al-Asad airbase, west of Hit. As of May 27 “thousands” of Shi’a militia members continue to arrive at the Habaniya base following the Iraqi Prime Minister’s call for the Popular Mobilization Commission to prepare for operations in Anbar. In contrast, the ISF in al-Asad airbase are supplemented by Sunni tribal fighters undergoing training by U.S. personnel. It remains to be seen how the Iraqi government will integrate the efforts of its forces at al-Asad and Habaniya bases to mutually beneficial effect, especially in light of the U.S. presence at al-Asad and the Iranian-backed militias’ presence at Habaniya. On May 26 the Popular Mobilization Commission launched a joint operation with the ISF to recapture parts of Ramadi as well as northern and western Salah ad-Din. As of May 29 the ISF is contesting southern Ramadi and the ISF and the Popular Mobilization, including Iranian-backed Shi’a militias, have reported successes east of Fallujah, south of Samarra, and south of the Baiji Oil Refinery. The Iranian-backed Shi’a militias now play a prominent role in the province. These developments may also compromise the U.S. role in Anbar, a high risk given the presence of U.S. personnel at al-Asad airbase.