Islamic State fighters stormed and captured a town in Iraq’s western Anbar province on Saturday [December 13], killing at least 19 policemen and trapping others inside their headquarters, in the latest attack in the desert region where it controls large amounts of territory”, Reuters reports on December 13. The same open source reports that “Islamic State seized the town of al-Wafa, 45 km (27 miles) west of Anbar’s capital Ramadi on Saturday after starting its assault early on Friday [December 12]”[1]. Anbar is the largest Iraqi province and anyone controlling it controls border crossings to several countries: Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and “with the capture of al-Wafa, Islamic State now controls three major towns to the west of Ramadi, including Hit and Kubaisa. Islamic State and government forces have been bogged down in a months-long battle for Ramadi”[2] and the complete control of the entire Anbar.

Brief comments on the meaning of the episode

The attack might be significant because of several reasons. First of all, it clearly proves that the massive air strikes launched by the U.S. and several allies (from Europe and the Middle East) against the Islamic State (ISIL) were not at all able to completely destroy the offensive military capabilities of ISIL. And secondly, the same episode strongly indicates that the Iraqi state lacks in many occasions institutional effectiveness. In the episode we are speaking about, the police forces trying to defend were forced to abandon their positions simply because their ammunition supply was very low. “Police forces have been fighting Islamic State fighters since Friday, but lack of ammunition forced it to retreat and losing the town. I’m frustrated because we were left alone without support”, said Hussain Kassar, the town’s mayor, Reuters reports[3]. “Elsewhere in western Anbar, Islamic State militants executed at least 21 Sunni tribal fighters on Friday [December 12] after capturing them near al-Baghdadi town on Wednesday [December 10], local officials and tribesmen said on Saturday [December 13, 2014]”, Reuters also reports[4], indicating that the Iraqi authorities are, in some occasions, completely unable to protect local allies. The entire episode indicate that ISIL combat potential is still at least partially operational, while some Iraqi institutions are simply not able to act with at least a decent amount of effectiveness. This shows how enormously fragile the Iraqi national power is.

[1] “Islamic State storms town in western Iraq, kills 19 police: officials”, Reuters, December 13, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[2] Ibidem

[3] Ibidem

[4] Ibidem

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