Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said Monday that 2016 will mark the year of victory against the “Islamic State” (IS). His statement comes after the Iraqi army defeated IS in the city of Ramadi, which is considered the army’s most significant victory in the past 18 months.
Iraqi army soldiers raised the national flag on the governmental complex in Ramadi Monday after it was seized by IS militants in May.
“If 2015 was the year of liberation, 2016 will be the year of complete victory against IS in Iraq,” Al-Abadi said in a televised statement.
The recapture of Ramadi, the capital of Al-Anbar the biggest province in Iraq, constitutes a key victory as it strips IS of a strategic area, extending from near Baghdad to the Syrian borders.
This operation was carried out by Iraqi troops alone, who were trained by the US, and did not include any intervention from the Shi’a militants who led fights against IS in other locations. This may be the reason why breaking through the Sunni-dominated Al-Anbar province took more time.
“Yes, the city of Ramadi has been liberated. The Iraqi counter terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex in Anbar,” joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said in a statement broadcast on state television.
The White House said US President Barack Obama was informed of the Iraqi victory. Reuters however quoted an anonymous US official as saying that he cannot determine now whether the war against IS in Ramadi is over or not.
On Sunday, Iraqi national television broadcast images of a procession of soldiers and armed vehicles in Ramadi streets following the recapture. It also broadcasted a celebration in the capital Baghdad, showing people dancing in streets and waving Iraqi flags.
Efforts will now be directed towards liberating Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which IS conquered in June. Restoring Mosul will be a more significant victory for the Iraqi army than Ramadi, due to its large population. Recapturing Mosul will also put an end to the threat on Kurds in the north.
The group still controls large areas in Iraq, in addition to its strongholds in Syria, including major oil supplies.
IS also still controls several locations in Libya and Afghanistan and have carried out numerous deadly operations in several locations worldwide.