Official says IS pushed from Anbar desert while reports of activity continue
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Reports continued of a heavy Islamic State (IS) presence in the vast desert regions of Iraq's Anbar province as a high-level provincial official claimed that nearly all remaining militants had been eliminated.
According to Naeem al-Kaud, Security Committee Chairman of Anbar Provincial Council, military operations aimed at obliterating IS fighters in Anbar's hinterland have come to an end.
“Iraqi forces have staged a preemptive operation to purge Anbar’s desert and prevent any violation that could threaten its security during elections," he said, adding, "The desert has almost become free of Daesh (IS), and the threat is over.”
Ongoing media reports and other government announcements of continued IS activity in the area call into question such claims.
"The deserts of Anbar remain a safe haven for IS militants, because the security forces still can’t search the entire area," Sheikh Mansour al-Obaidi, a commander of a local tribal Hashd al-Shaabi militia unit told Iraq Oil Report in an article published two days after al-Kaud's announcement.
Also on Tuesday, an Iraqi security official in Anbar announced to the press that four IS militants had been arrested in the area, and a weapons cache seized. Other similar incidents continue to be covered by Iraqi media.
Anbar province makes up about one-third of Iraq's total land area, and its inhospitable and extensive rural terrain has proved exceedingly difficult to control, militarily, especially given the substantial influence of local tribes. It shares borders with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
Territory in Anbar was the first to be captured by IS as they spread over western and northern Iraq in 2014. In November of 2017, the province's town of Rawa, along the Syrian border, was the last Iraqi territory they were pushed from by security forces.