By Arab News
By Suadad Al-Salhy
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Friday announced the liberation of the border town of Al-Qaim in Anbar province from Daesh.
Iraqi security forces, backed by the US-led international coalition and Shiite-dominated paramilitaries, have been pushing to gain control over the vast desert of Anbar, Daesh’s last bastion in Iraq. It includes many towns along the Iraq-Syria border, which extends for more than 600 km.
Baghdad has regained control of more than 90 percent of Iraqi territory seized by Daesh. While the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) liberated Al-Qaim, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) liberated the town of Karrabla along the southern Euphrates, said Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Rashid Yarallah, commander of the Western Anbar Clearance Operation.
Security forces also recaptured the Hussieba border crossing in Al-Qaim that leads to Deir Ezzor, Daesh’s largest stronghold in Syria, Yarallah said.
Al-Abadi congratulated Iraqis on Al-Qaim’s liberation in a “record period.” The main goals of the military operation, which was launched on Oct. 26, is to retake the border crossings between Iraq and Syria, and to cut Daesh’s cross-border supply routes, military officers told Arab News.
“We have to reopen all the crossings with Syria, but we can’t do this before completely clearing the area of militants,” one of them said.
A “huge security and intelligence” operation to scan the area and destroy Daesh hideouts is being planned, the officer added. “The area is full of hidden camps.”
The operation is relying on equipment from the US-led coalition, including drones and satellites, to scan the desert, military sources told Arab News.
Although the military map circulated by the media war cell on Friday evening showed that the forces liberated more than 60 percent of the targeted region, several military officers involved in the campaign said that “the operation is still in its infancy.”
“We cannot say when the operation will end. We are still at the very beginning of the first stage of the operation,” a senior military officer told Arab News.
“Most areas located on the northern bank of the Euphrates are still in the hands of the militants,” the officer said. “Also, we know that the area is full of hidden camps (for the militants), so we cannot say we fully liberated (the area) till we find all the terror camps and destroy them.”