Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) In a conflict that continues to escalate while astounding the international community, ISIS is now believed to potentially have the means to take over Iraq’s largest air base. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is seeking to take control of Balad Air Base, which was one of the most important bases during the American Occupation.
U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern over the threat as the terrorist group continues its pursuance of Baghdad quickly and violently. This could lead to the potential of ISIS strategically becoming stronger than the Iraqi forces, and attacks on Balad have already been occurring this month.
Balad is home to Iraq’s transport helicopters supplied by Russia, and was scheduled to be the home of several American F-16s in coming months. Americans were working to update the base for the new expected equipment, but, as reported by IraqiNews.com, the contractors were flown to Baghdad for safety after ISIS announced its plans to attack with guns and grenades. Iraqi officers continue to state that without the equipment, they may not be able to defeat ISIS in the near future.
Another base nearby, in Taji, is considered at risk as well. The takeover of the two bases could give ISIS a concerning advantage over the Iraqi Army, as they have already obtained vehicles and weapons left behind from the American Occupation. Although drones and most surveillance equipment were safely flown home, some other equipment left behind has fallen into the hands of the terrorist group. Social media is flooded with pictures of ISIS members with weapons and vehicles obtained from their occupations of parts of Iraq and Syria. Its militia is growing quickly and drastically, though some continue to state the group may not be trained well enough to handle equipment seized from the airbases.
However, the hope that ISIS may not be trained to handle the equipment has not lessened the concerns in the region. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has called the situation an “emergency,” and stressed that options are becoming more limited as the terrorist group advances.
Among the equipment that could be seized in Balad are Russian made helicopters, transport vehicles and machine guns.