While U.S.-trained Iraqi forces have been notorious for dropping their U.S.-issued weapons and running in the face of fights with ISIS, slowly but surely their combat skills and confidence have come around, turning the tide on ISIS as the formerly weak Iraqi forces retake Iraqi cities such as Ramadi, cities that ISIS had established as jihadi strongholds.
The day after Christmas, as violence and other battles also raged across the Middle East, Iraqi forces spent their Saturday fighting a withering but defiant contingent of ISIS militants, the Iraqi forces battling through the heart of the pivotal city of Ramadi and ultimately taking control of Ramadi’s Al-Hoz neighborhood, reports Al Arabiya News Channel.
A government complex in Al-Hoz, taken by ISIS militants earlier this year and a complex ISIS fighters struggled to maintain Saturday, represents a symbolic heart of Ramadi, and its recapture another likely morale boost for Iraqi forces.
ISIS had been battling Iraqi forces to take Ramadi for months before a major May 2015 assault that included massive suicide car bombs, overwhelming the Iraqi forces and giving ISIS control of the city.
The loss of Ramadi to ISIS marked a major defeat for Iraqi forces, perhaps their worst, making their current efforts to retake Ramadi from the ISIS militants a significant step forward in establishing their effectiveness and ability to send ISIS packing.
ISIS was met with the new combat strengths of the Iraqi forces in Ramadi on Tuesday, as the Iraqi troops sought to blow holes through ISIS defenses surrounding Ramadi’s center.
While ISIS defenses did crumble under the weight of the Iraqi assault, the fight has not come without sacrifice from the Iraqi soldiers. ISIS militants used snipers, suicide bombers, and IEDs (Improvised Exploding Devices) such as roadside bombs to try and maintain their stranglehold on Ramadi.
Iraqi forces have also had to contend with the “possibility” that dozens of Iraqi civilian families are being used by ISIS as human shields, a grim situation and trademark strategy of both ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups.
According to Ramadi Police Captain Ahmed al-Dulaimi, three Iraqi troops were killed Friday.
“There are fierce battles pitting members of the Daesh (ISIS) organization against the Iraqi forces there now,” said al-Dulaimi.
ISIS militants have taken the brunt of the Ramadi battle’s casualties, however, with an estimated 23 ISIS jihadis killed Friday.
In all, the the Iraq forces and elite counter-terrorism service (CTS) continue to move forward through the devastated and war-torn Ramadi streets, despite the challenging hurdles..
The key government complex also marks a key Ramadi intersection in the Hoz neighborhood, and now that Iraqi forces have reached the area, taking it back into Iraqi control from ISIS would be a huge step toward the final recapture of Ramadi.
According to the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, Colonel Steve Warren, the Iraqi forces are continuing to move forward despite the intense ISIS opposition.
“You have the 8th Iraqi army and CTS (Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism service)… and they’re all pushing forward… CTS have made more progress, they’re several hundred meters (yards) closer to the government complex.”
The U.S.-led coalition has also been supporting Iraqi forces in Ramadi with daily air strikes, helping to soften up the jihadi defenses and playing a key role in recapturing the city, though the civilian families stuck in the combat zone are a significant concern.
Despite the successful results Iraqi forces are currently achieving against ISIS in Ramadi, future sights set on the recapture of the much larger Mosul from ISIS are expected to be far more difficult, reports FOX News.
While ISIS strategies in Mosul will likely mirror those in Ramadi, with land mines, IEDs, and using an innocent civilian population as human shields, ISIS has also been entrenching themselves in Mosul for over a year, creating a defense that will likely be more formidable and challenging than that in Ramadi.
At the same time, Iraqi forces continue to roll, each day of successful combat experience against ISIS in places like Ramadi proving them a formidable force that ISIS will continue to have to reckon with.
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