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U.S. Reinforcements Arrive At Anbar's Ayn Al-Asad Base, Following IS Assault

Sailors in the Arabian Sea direct and launch fighters from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier "U.S.S. George H.W. Bush," which has been supporting air strike operations against Islamic State.

Sailors in the Arabian Sea direct and launch fighters from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier "U.S.S. George H.W. Bush," which has been supporting air strike operations against Islamic State.

U.S. reinforcements have arrived at the Ayn al-Asad military base in Iraq's beleaguered western Anbar province.

Sky News Arabic cited an anonymous security source on December 23 as saying that 300 soldiers and advisors and three Apache helicopters were dispatched to the base in Baghdadi. A number of U.S. military advisors are stationed in the Ayn al-Asad facility.

The news of the reinforcements comes after reports of attempts by Islamic State (IS) militants to assault and overrun the Ayn al-Asad base.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq reported on December 22 that IS militants had made another attempt to overrun Baghdadi including Ayn al-Asad. The attack was repelled by coalition air strikes, Iraqi security forces, and tribal fighters. At least 13 Islamic State gunmen were killed in the assault, according to the correspondent.

A BBC journalist who reported from Ayn al-Asad on December 19 noted that the base was completely surrounded by Islamic State militants and that as many as 15 villages surrounding the base have recently been overrun by the gunmen.

Anbar Tribal Council leader Faris Ibrahim told pan-Arab outlet "Asharq Al-Awsat" on December 22 that fighting around the base has been fierce.

On December 20, Islamic State gunmen managed to enter areas around Baghdadi and seize several buildings in the town's southern areas, before coalition warplanes struck a bridge connecting Baghdadi with an outlying village to prevent the militants from crossing.

Coalition air strikes around Ayn al-Asad continued on December 22, with U.S. Central Command announcing that the alliance had carried out two strikes near the base. The attacks destroyed an Islamic State tactical vehicle and struck two IS tactical units.

U.S.-led strikes also hit targets near Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, destroying two vehicles, a building, and a tactical unit. An RFE/RL correspondent reported ongoing clashes in Ramadi's southern sector on December 22.

"Asharq Al-Awsat" reported on December 22 that Iraqi forces, including tribal fighters, have succeeded in retaking the town of Al-Wafa in Anbar.

"Asharq Al-Awsat" quoted an Iraqi government spokesman as saying that security forces retook Al-Wafa, 32 kilometers west of Ramadi, and also regained control of an important highway connected to it, on December 21. IS militants overran Al-Wafa and part of the highway on December 13.

Anbar Tribal Council's Ibrahim said that tribal forces were poorly equipped while the IS gunmen were "fiercer than those fighting for the group in other areas."

Anbar's tribal fighters have previously warned that they are extremely underequipped and called on the central government in Baghdad to provide them with sufficient weapons and ammunition to fight Islamic State militants in the province.

-- 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