It doesn’t look like Iraqi forces will be able to take back Ramadi from the Islamic State anytime soon.
The terrorists are already laying roots down in the capital of Anbar province, The Washington Post reports.
Militants are performing government functions such as fixing infrastructure and distributing fuel in addition to building up defences around the city to deter attacks.
“They are acting like the permanent government here,” a local man told the Post. “So of course people have joined them. They have the upper hand.”
A key part of ISIS’ strategy involves taking control of territory and providing civil services to populated areas. ISIS seeks to embed itself into societies and implement a new way of life governed by a strict interpretation of Sharia law.
While ISIS has repaired roads, restored electricity to neighbourhoods using generators, and sent hospital employees back to work, the militants have also starting enforcing a strict dress code for women, set up rooftop snipers, rigged houses with explosives, and formed a religious committee to supervise mosques so the group can maintain tight control over its indoctrination of locals.
ISIS also executes or imprisons many people who oppose its regime.
This strategy of instilling fear and providing basic services that restore some sense of order to daily life helps earn ISIS the loyalty of some who would rather give in to the militants if it means saving their own lives.
“Now there is daily life,” Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi government adviser and an expert on ISIS, told the Post. “There is food in the markets and electricity. It’s like normal.”
This will all make it more difficult for Iraqi forces to drive the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) out of Ramadi, the Post notes. The longer it takes the Iraqi government to mount an effective operation to retake the city, the more time ISIS has to secure its place among the population.
As it is, the forces fighting ISIS in Iraq weren’t able to hold the city in the first place. ISIS militants stormed into Ramadi in May, sending in car bombs to cripple the government-backed forces defending the city.
Iraqi security forces and government-supported militias, many of which are backed by Iran, say they need more time before they’re able to retake Ramadi.
Part of this might have to do with resource allocation, according to Michael Pregent, a terrorism analyst and former US Army intelligence officer in Iraq.
“[The militias] don’t have numbers to protect Shia areas and retake Sunni areas from ISIS, so they’re prioritising,” Pregent told Business Insider last month, adding that the militias “no intention of hurrying to take [Ramadi] back.”
Iraqi security forces aren’t effective enough to battle ISIS on their own, so the Shia-led government in Baghdad has allowed militias backed by Iran, a Shia theocracy, to increasingly take over the ground fight.
Some say that this means Sunni-dominated areas like Anbar province are low on Iraq’s priorities list.
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