Salah Al-Din, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi forces have completely cut off Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) communication and supply lines to Tikrit ahead of an expected offensive to retake the city, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Al-Zaidi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Iraqi general, who is commanding the military offensive against ISIS in Tikrit, confirmed that 4 days of fighting with ISIS has seen the jihadist group’s fighters retreat back to the city in Iraq’s central Salah Al-Din province. Iraqi military forces are coordinating with the Shi’ite Popular Mobilization force and local Sunni tribes, along with the US-led anti-ISIS international coalition forces ahead of an expected assault on the city itself.
“The objective of this operation is to prevent ISIS fighters from carrying out future attacks and cut off their communication and supply lines, pushing them back and preventing their freedom of movement,” Zaidi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The next step will be to “quickly” confront ISIS troops in Tikrit itself, he added, confirming that Iraqi forces, backed by Shi’ite Popular Mobilization forces and local Sunni tribes, have completely taken control of the area around Tikrit.
While Salah Al-Din governorate security official Col. Mohamed Ibrahim confirmed that the Iraqi federal police force has also participated in the fight against ISIS in Salah Al-Din, with a view to securing this territory after its liberation.
“The federal police force HAS been able to liberate the Dawajib area after a fierce battle with ISIS fighters,” he said.
Ibrahim added that federal police forces have increased their presence in the area ahead of the expected Tikrit offensive.
While Salah Al-Din governor Ra’id Al-Jubouri confirmed that local tribes and Popular Mobilization forces are currently focusing on the clean-up operations in the areas around Tikrit.
Speaking on Saturday, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that he fully expected ISIS to be pushed out of Tikrit.
“The numbers are overwhelming,” he told reporters.
The top US general said about 23,000 Iranian-backed Shi’ite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers are involved in the offensive, compared with just “hundreds” of ISIS fighters.