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Anbar Tribe Threatens To Quit Over Lack Of Weapons As IS Overruns Areas East Of Ramadi


Iraqi fighters who liberated west Anbar from Islamic State gunmen in late December

Iraqi fighters who liberated west Anbar from Islamic State gunmen in late December

Tribal forces in northeastern Anbar have threatened to stop fighting the Islamic State (IS) group because of a lack of support from the Iraqi military and security forces.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq reported that the tribe had warned the central and local governments that it would withdraw from the fight against IS militants unless its fighters were supplied with ammunition and weapons within five hours.

An Albu Ghanem tribal elder, Zamel Abboud Abu Ghanem, told the IraqiNews.com website on January 22 that the tribal forces had given the central government a five-hour ultimatum to provide "arms, military troops, and military aircraft to bomb IS sites."

The tribal elder also said that Iraqi security leaders had misinformed the Iraqi central government about the situation in Anbar province.

Reports over whether the tribe has subsequently withdrawn from the clashes were unclear. Arkan Khalaf al-Tarmuz of the Anbar Provincial Council said on January 22 that the Albu Ghanem tribe had been forced to withdraw after large numbers of IS militants attacked the area east of the provincial capital Ramadi that morning.

The Albu Ghanem tribe's insistence on being provided with support in its battle against IS followed reports that IS gunmen had attacked the Albu Ghanem area east of Ramadi on the morning of January 22, which led to violent clashes between the militants and tribal forces.

Anbar Provincial Council member al-Tarmouz said later on January 22 that clashes were ongoing and that IS had booby-trapped and bombed tens of tribal members' homes.

According to RFE/RL's correspondent, IS gunmen killed at least 23 local policemen and tribal fighters in the clashes east of Ramadi.

IS militants were also threatening to overrun Ramadi itself, the correspondent reported, quoting security sources in Anbar as saying that the situation in the provincial capital is the most dangerous it has been for a year. The security services said that IS gunmen would capture the city unless the central and local governments provided local forces with arms and ammunition.

This is not the first time that tribal and local Iraqi security forces in Anbar have complained that the central government is doing too little to supply them with sufficient weapons and ammunition to defeat IS.

Pan-Arab outlet Asharq Al-Awsat reported on January 12 that while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for a "tribal revolution" in Anbar province, local tribes have frequently complained that they are being sidelined by Baghdad and that promised weapons and ammunition has not arrived.

In December, the Albu Nimr tribe warned the central government that they only had enough weapons and ammunition to fight IS for five days.

The Albu Nimr tribe, which belongs to the Awakening movement that fought Al-Qaeda, has suffered mass killings at the hands of IS militants. In November, tribal leaders accused IS of committing genocide against the Albu Nimr and said that more than 500 members of the tribe had been killed by IS gunmen.

U.S. Training

A delegation of tribal and provincial leaders from Anbar province is in Washington to request more U.S. military assistance for the fight against IS.

The White House said in a January 22 statement that Vice President Joseph Biden had "expressed support for the Iraqi government's efforts to enlist fighters from all of Iraq's communities."

A senior official from the U.S. State Department said on January 21 that the United States has a building partner capacity site in Anbar province, where U.S. and coalition special forces had "just graduated another about 260 tribal fighters on [January 16]."

The number of tribal forces trained was "approaching about 1,0000," the official said.

In response to a question during a background briefing on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's upcoming trip to Davos and London, the senior State Department official said that the United States wanted to "build on lessons learned" from the Awakening movement that mobilized tribal forces in Anbar, Salah al-Din and Nineveh provinces against Al-Qaeda.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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