Iraq launches offensive to recapture western Anbar from ISIL

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi vowed to retake "every last bit of Iraqi territory from the enemy"

Members of the Iraqi forces backed by paramilitary units advance against one of the Islamic State group's last bastions in the area of Anah, in the vast western province of Anbar bordering Syria, on September 19, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / MOADH AL-DULAIMI

Iraqi forces began an offensive to recapture western Anbar, one of the last areas of the country held by ISIL.

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi announced the launch of the operation and vowed that forces "will retake every last bit of Iraqi territory from the enemy."

Additionally the US-led Joint Operations Command, which is co-ordinating Iraqi security forces battling ISIL, announced an offensive had begun to retake the town of Anah and the nearby village of Al Rayhanna.

The head of Anah's municipal council, Abdel Karim Al Ani, confirmed the offensive had begun and said security forces had opened a road out of the town to allow civilians to flee. Situated approximately 100 kilometres west of the border with Syria, Anah is one of three towns in Anbar province under ISIL control.

Mohammed Hineidi, a Dubai-based expert on the Levant said iraqi forces would have little difficulty in mopping up the remaining ISIL-held pockets across Anbar.

"ISIL remnants in Anbar province are not large and threatening, and therefore would not constitute a significant challenge for Iraqi forces," Mr Hineidi said. 
After retaking the town, Iraqi forces are expected to next target Rawa to the northwest and finally Al Qaim, which is close to the border with the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.

“Whatever remains of ISIL now cannot make an escape into Syria due to the operations currently taking place there by the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian government, and US-backed Kurdish forces in the provinces on the Syrian side of the border,” Mr Henidi said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are also preparing to launch an assault against ISIL in the town of Hawija, situated 300 kilometres north of Baghdad.

In Syria ISIL militants are under tremendous pressure, where a US-backed alliance of Kurds and Arabs is battling to retake the extremists' self-declared capital Raqa and Russian-backed regime forces are fighting for control of the city of Deir Ezzor.