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Iraqi Tribal Fighters To Take On IS In Anbar

Police vehicles damaged in fighting with Islamic State militants in the Anbar town of Hit on October 6

Police vehicles damaged in fighting with Islamic State militants in the Anbar town of Hit on October 6

Amid fears that Islamic State could soon overrun Iraq's Anbar Province, the Anbar Council announced on October 12 that it had received approval for the formation of a tribal fighters’ National Guard to combat the armed groups.

Also on October 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that it was “Iraqis in Anbar who will have to fight for Anbar."

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Kerry said that it would “take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi Army and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq."

“But ultimately, it is Iraqis who will have to take back Iraq,” Kerry said.

Though Kerry said that he was “confident” that Iraqis could fight Islamic State, he added with regard to the Iraqi Army that “it will take some time to build that capacity in order for it to be able to be effective.”

Iraqis in Anbar Province have warned that there is no time to waste, however, and that Anbar could fall within weeks.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Anbar Province reported on October 12 that the Anbar Council’s deputy leader, Faleh al-Issawi, warned that Anbar would fall within 15 days unless the central government provides weapons and munitions to the province’s security forces.

If Anbar falls, Issawi said, the consequences would be “catastrophic."

Issawi’s warning and Kerry’s comments came hours before unconfirmed reports on October 13 that Islamic State forces had taken over a military camp in Hit, west of Ramadi, following heavy clashes with security forces. Almada Press cited an anonymous Iraqi security source as saying on October 12 that Islamic State fighters had attacked checkpoints close to the camp in Hit.

Islamic State advances in Hit come despite air strikes on October 11 by the U.S.-led coalition, which targeted IS positions south of the town.

-- 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