Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—In his first televised speech following his appointment on Saturday, Iraq’s new Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi pledged that Iraqi forces would retake all areas of the country that have been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We are committed to the liberation of the provinces that have fallen under ISIS control and securing the return of refugees to their homes, securing peace and stability for our country,” the new defense minister pledged on Tuesday.
“Our mission, from now, is to confront corruption and terrorism, as these are two sides of the same coin. We will not hesitate to confront corruption wherever we find it and work to build a professional military,” Obeidi said.
“We will work with determination and dedication to serve the national interests and security of Iraq and we will not yield to any pressure trying to fight against the imposition of peace and security and the fight against corruption,” he added, vowing to root out corruption in Iraq’s Defense Ministry.
Iraq’s efforts to rebuild its military have been dogged by high-levels of corruption among civil servants and the military officers, with many troops existing only on paper and their pay and allowances pocketed by corrupt officials.
Efforts to procure weapons, equipment, and supplies have also been undermined by graft and outright theft, with many units reportedly not receiving adequate food, water, and ammunition, a massive obstacle to efforts to combat ISIS.
The minister’s comments came as US-led airstrikes continued to target ISIS positions in western Iraq. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Pentagon claimed that an ISIS fighting position southeast of Mosul Dam and another south of Baiji oil refinery had been destroyed by airstrikes, and that another strike north of Fallujah disrupted an ISIS attack.
ISIS and Iraqi forces continue to battle over the strategically important region of Anbar, with local and regional forces warning that the western province represents an important supply line between ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
According to reports, ISIS has stopped advancing in many areas of Anbar following the start of US-led airstrikes against the group’s positions, while the Anbar Tribal Council continues to call for renewed efforts to recapture territory from group, which controls an estimated 80 percent of the province.
Anbar Tribal Council member Faris Ibrahim told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The situation in the city of Ramadi is better than it has been for a long time, particularly after a lot of territory in the surrounding area has been liberated from ISIS.”
“The main reason behind the halt of the ISIS advance is the focused airstrikes by international force which have focused on vital targets and resulted in significant losses for ISIS,” he added.
Ibrahim said that the Anbar Tribal Council has called on Iraqi and international forces to intensify its campaign against ISIS in the region, adding that tribal forces will then seek to re-secure territory previously held by extremist fighters.
“Airstrikes are not enough because ISIS will work to absorb its losses and then return anew,” he warned.