Anbar (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi security forces will turn to Islamic State strongholds in western Anbar after expelling the extremist group from western Mosul, a senior army commander in the province said.
Maj. Gen. Qassem al-Mohammadi was quoted saying Islamic State strongholds in Anbar’s western towns of Annah, Rawa and Qaem “will be liberated soon”.
Mohammadi said operations targeting those areas will launch soon after the security campaign against IS in western Mosul.
Earlier on Monday, Anadolu Agency quoted an army officer saying that 2000 U.S. army soldiers had arrived in a military base in Anbar to back up Iraqi forces in anticipated offensives against IS in the west of the province.
Islamic State held Anbar’s western regions, close to the borders with Syria, since 2014. Those areas have sustained occasional bombardments by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition fighter jets.
There has not been an officially-declared military campaign to free those regions, but the province’s military command launched a brief assault early January that managed to recapture some western villages before stopping again.
Local officials believe Islamic State is holding thousands in those regions to use them as human shields against any future security offensive.
The province’s borders with Syria have recently witnessed exchanges of attacks between IS and border guards.