Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter

U.S. Colonel: One-Third of Fallujah Cleared of ISIS Forces

U.S. Army Colonel Christopher Garver said that only one-third of Fallujah had been cleared of forces from the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other parts of the city are “contested.” The statement from the Baghdad-based coalition spokesman comes after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that the city had been liberated from the militant group (Al Jazeera). Garver said ISIS forces appeared to have a “defensive belt” (CBS) around the city with less “stiff defenses” inside of it and warned that Iraqi forces may encounter their “toughest fighting” as they move away from the city center. Some 80,000 people are estimated to have fled the city during the four weeks of the Iraqi government-led siege on the city (Telegraph).


“The failure of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and international aid to help the estimated 80,000 Fallujah residents who have fled – 20,000 of them in just two days last week – is raising alarm over the prospect of reconciliation with the central government seen as essential to Iraq’s stability. Fallujah is a traditional hotbed of Sunni militancy where both IS and its predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq, first took root. Many residents from the city and the wider Anbar province believe they are being punished for having been under the rule of IS, which has made Shiite Muslims its main target,” Jane Arraf writes for the Christian Science Monitor.

“Families fleeing the combat in the Iraqi city of Fallujah have been forced to sleep in the open desert for almost a week, with aid agencies warning that people are at risk of dying as supplies of tents and water run dangerously low. More than 85,000 people have escaped the city and its surroundings in recent weeks as Iraqi security forces battle to recapture the city from the Islamic State. About 4.4 million people in the country are now internally displaced, one of the highest totals of any country,” Loveday Morris writes for the Washington Post.

“The battle for Fallujah involved the regular Iraqi military and militias. To allay fears that the Shia militias would take the predominantly Arab Sunni city, Abadi announced that they would play a supporting role, and not participate in the assault on the city’s centre. The bargain was that if the militias were held back, the US would increase the tempo of its air strikes, as it did in the battle for Ramadi in December 2015. In both cases, US air power was contingent on sidelining the Shia militias. In Washington’s view, the [Popular Mobilization Units’] potential to alienate Sunnis in Fallujah took precedence over the military effectiveness of the militias,” Ibrahim al-Marashi writes for Al Jazeera.