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Iraqi forces, tribal fighters advance against ISIS in Anbar - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tribal fighters take part in military training to prepare for fighting against ISIS militants, at the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province November 15, 2014.  (Reuters)

Tribal fighters take part in military training to prepare for fighting against ISIS militants, at the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province November 15, 2014. (Reuters)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sheikh Rafea Al-Fahdawi, leader of the Boufahd tribe that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar province, hailed government advances in the region but called for Baghdad to do even more to support tribal fighters.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Fahdawi said: “The government assistance is very sparse and does not meet our requirements, whether we are talking about the quality or quantity of arms particularly when compared to the sophisticated arms and equipment of ISIS.”

Despite his criticism, Iraqi forces backed by allied tribal fighters have continued to advance against ISIS positions in the restive Anbar province. Local security sources confirmed that government forces are advancing against ISIS positions across Anbar, including provincial capital Ramadi.

Local authorities in Ramadi on Wednesday said that government forces, backed by tribal fighters, had managed to push back the “fiercest and most violent” attack yet from ISIS. The comments were made by Anbar provincial council chairman Sabah Al-Karhout to Sumaria TV news.

Karhout claimed that ISIS had suffered heavy losses on Wednesday, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi had also pledged to send more troops to the provincial capital to ensure that it remains outside of ISIS hands.

A source close to Anbar Operations Command, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss an ongoing operation, said that government engineers are working to defuse mines and other explosive devices that have been left in eastern Ramadi by retreating ISIS fighters.

“The liberation operation continues in the [neighboring] Sijariya region which is the stronghold of the Boufahd tribe in Anbar. ISIS fighters have completely destroyed the region and placed mines everywhere and so our engineers are working to defuse these,” the Boufahd tribal chief told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“This advance, despite our lack of [military] capabilities, is taking place on a number of different fronts, including Hit where security and tribal forces are participating in the fighting against ISIS,” Fahdawi added.

The Anbar tribal chief criticized the Iraqi air force’s participation in the battle as being ineffective, adding that US warplanes must do more to provide Iraqi troops and tribal fighters with aerial cover.

However Hisham Al-Hashimi, an expert on armed groups from the Al-Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the international alliance may be purposefully seeking to remain out of the battle for Anbar.

“The international alliance does not want to become embroiled in striking unclear targets and so must be careful not to act on suspicious or misleading intelligence,” he said.