Iraqi Army Says It Has Retaken City Of Ramadi From ISIS – Huffington Post

COMPLETE CONTROL

Ramadi was the first major city recaptured by the army itself, without relying on the militias, who were kept off the battlefield to avoid sectarian tension with the mainly Sunni population.

The government, led by a Shi’ite Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said Ramadi would be handed over to local police and a Sunni tribal force once it was secured, a measure meant to win over the community to the fight against Islamic State.

“We have trained hundreds of tribal fighters, their role will be holding the ground,” said Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command.

“Seeing their own tribes responsible for security will be a relief for the civilians” and will help convince those who have been displaced to return to the city, he added.

The strategy echoes the “surge” campaign fought by U.S. forces in 2006-2007 against a precursor of Islamic State, when Washington also relied on winning over local Sunni tribes and arming them to fight militants. Anbar province, including Ramadi, was one of the main battlefields during that campaign at the height of the 2003-2011 U.S. Iraq war.

The government said the next target after Ramadi will be the northern city of Mosul, by far the largest population center controlled by Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria.

“The smooth victory in Ramadi should be happy news for the residents of Mosul,” spokesman Numani said. U.S. officials had hoped Baghdad would launch an assault on Mosul during 2015, but this was put off after the fighters swept into Ramadi in May.

Dislodging the militants from Mosul, which had a pre-war population close to 2 million, would effectively abolish their state structure in Iraq and deprive them of a major source of funding, which comes partly from oil and partly from fees and taxes on residents. (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Peter Graff)

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