The Iraqi Security forces, in coordination with U.S. airstrikes, launched a major operation to retake ground lost to the Islamic State group in Anbar province Monday. The operation consists of multiple different factions of fighters, including Sunni tribesmen; police forces; Shiite volunteer forces, which are largely backed by Iran; and the elite Iraqi security forces, raising questions as to whether the groups can communicate and work together well enough to defeat the Sunni militant group.
The military operation, dubbed Labayk ya Hussein (At your service, O Hussein) -- a reference to a revered Shiite imam, is a last-minute effort by the Iraqi security forces to retake Ramadi, the heart of Anbar province, which the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, took over last week. Sources from within the Habbaniyah military base, an Iraqi base between Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province, said the police forces are enrolling dozens of new fighters to take on ISIS.
Sunni tribal fighters in Anbar said in interviews with International Business Times that the operation requires "all hands on deck" but that major miscommunications and disagreements over battle strategy still exist between the leaders of the different fighting groups.
Those disagreements were revealed on the battlefield in Tikrit, where leaders of the national police and Shiite volunteer forces ultimately led separate battles against ISIS, delaying the fight and confusing the men on the frontlines. None of the leaders in the Shiite volunteer forces or the national police knew who was in direct communication with the U.S. regarding airstrike targets.
Although the Iraqi military ultimately liberated Tikrit, the miscommunication and disagreements set them back in Anbar province and led to the ISIS victory in Ramadi. Now, as the they try and mobilize to retake lost ground, Sunni tribesmen in Anbar say they are not optimistic that the forces can work together efficiently.
In an interview with CNN over the weekend Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Ramadi fell to ISIS partly because the Iraqi forces showed “no will to fight.” His remarks were rebuked widely in the Iraqi ranks in Anbar. Sunni tribesmen said in inteviews with IBTimes they had will to fight but needed more weapons and better leadership. Others said that Carter's assessment of the battle of Ramadi were accurate.
"There is weakness in intelligence, weak morale among the army and police ranks. There is no will nor the resolve within the army to fight ISIS," said Sabbah al-Krhot, chairman of the Anbar provincial council.
The U.S. is sending 1,000 anti-tank missiles to Iraq, in addition to what it had previously pledged, the New York Times reported last week. Prime Minister Haider al Abadi requested the transfer of the weapons during a meeting in Washington last month. But the missiles will not arrive in Iraq until sometime in June, the Times reported.
Ahmed al-Assadi, the spokesman for the Shiite volunteer groups, also known as the Popular Mobilization forces, told a televised news conference Monday that the operation would "not last for a long time" and that new weapons would be used in the battle that would "surprise the enemy," according to reports from the BBC.