The Washington Post reports: Six weeks after routing Iraqi security forces from Ramadi, Islamic State militants have entrenched themselves in the city, repairing key infrastructure, managing local government and building up defenses to thwart any attacks.
Their efforts are likely to hamper government attempts to retake Ramadi, which lies about 80 miles west of Baghdad. Iraqi forces and allied militias have not yet mounted a promised offensive, and the delay, residents say, has allowed the Sunni jihadists to cement their role as overlords, supervising everything from local mosques and road repairs to fuel distribution.
The group, known for its brutality, has also long sought to portray itself as a genuine state capable of providing efficiently for its Muslim citizens. From Raqqa and Deir al-Zour in Syria to Mosul and now Ramadi in Iraq, its claim to legitimacy has rested in large part on its ability to run such a state, even as it shocks and alienates residents with punishments such as public beheadings.
When the group’s fighters entered the city, “they seized everyone’s weapons and killed opponents,” said Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on the Islamic State and adviser to the Iraqi government. “But now there is daily life. There is food in the markets and electricity. It’s like normal.
“As long as the government operation is delayed, it will give [the militants] the opportunity to secure their positions” in Ramadi, he said. [Continue reading…]
Following a visit to the Pentagon by President Obama on Monday, the New York Times reported: The president offered no timetable for an Iraqi counterattack to reclaim Ramadi and did not announce any new steps to assist Iraqi troops in retaking the city, such as using American troops to call in airstrikes. But he insisted that the plans he announced last month were already bearing fruit. “More Sunni volunteers are coming forward,” Mr. Obama said. “Some are already being trained, and they can be a new force against ISIL.”
The assault force would be led by Iraq’s counterterrorism service and would include the Iraqi federal police and army soldiers. The effort is expected to number about 6,000 troops, according to an Iraqi war plan that has been significantly shaped by American advisers sent to Al Taqqadum, an Iraqi base east of Ramadi.
An Iraqi follow-on force of up to 5,000 tribal fighters along with Iraqi provincial police officers would be assigned to hold the city and nearby areas in Anbar Province if they were retaken from the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]