Despite what the Pentagon may say, the “degrade and defeat” strategy against the Islamic State terror group isn’t going well. Instead, the militants gained control of the provincial capital of Ramadi after months of contesting it with Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni tribes.
And that means the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) now has a superhighway or sorts across Syria and Iraq.
Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest region. The province is predominantly Sunni and abuts onto Baghdad, which is only a little more than fifty miles away. Now that Ramadi has fallen, ISIS will have much more of a clear shot running supplies and fighters straight to a front against the Iraqi capital.
ISIS is not strong enough to go after Baghdad. However, the main concern is that the militant group would use the city as a staging point to muster their forces and plan out deadly attacks that could inflict high levels of casualties.
“This is a very big threat to Baghdad. If [ISIS] controls Ramadi and Anbar, it gives them a big morale boost,” Iraqi General Najim Abed al-Jabouri told The Daily Beast. “The road between Syria and Ramadi is open, so they can always send more fighters to Ramadi.”
This open road simultaneously gives a moral boost to ISIS by lending credence to their statement of an ever expanding caliphate while also providing the inherent logistical bonus of controlling contiguous pieces of territory.
Now, fighters and supplies can travel through north western Syria by the border with Turkey all the way towards central Iraq relatively unhindered.
The seizure of Ramadi also further tightens ISIS control throughout Anbar province as a whole. The symbolic loss of the capital and the Iraqi government’s failure to resupply the tribes and Iraqi military units fighting against ISIS there so close to Baghdad could convince other potential Sunni tribes throughout Anbar to refrain from fighting the militants.
Even before the fall of Ramadi, Anbar posed serious challenges to the Iraqi government.
“Most of the support that comes to the terrorists comes through Anbar,” Naseer Nori, the head of the Iraqi defence ministry’s media office, told The Wall Street Journal.
In the north of Iraq, ISIS already has a major transit pipeline that spans from Aleppo to their Syrian capital of Raqqa to Mosul. That pipeline, in concert with the new southern pipeline to Ramadi, will ensure that ISIS is able to stage attacks across an even larger swath of Iraqi territory.
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