Sunday, March 22, 2015

Operation to Retake Tikrit from ISIS Stalled by Heavy Casualties, Discord

ISTANBUL — The much ballyhooed Iraqi government operation to capture the central city of Tikrit from the Islamic State has stalled three weeks after it began, amid widespread reports that Shiite Muslim militias and the government are badly divided over tactics and roiled by claims that the militias have engaged in war crimes against the local Sunni Muslim population.

A two-day pause supposedly intended to give the Iraqi government time to bring up reinforcements has stretched into a week, as reports circulate that Iraqi government troops and the militias took heavier than anticipated casualties in their first efforts to dislodge Islamic State fighters. At least 1,000 militiamen died in the early days of fighting, according to some reports, roughly 5 percent of the 20,000 men the militias have committed to the operation.
Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen clash with Islamic State fighters at the frontline in the Qadisiyah neighborhood in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, March 15, 2015

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Even during the pause, pro-government casualties remain high. A witness in the main government hospital at the nearby city of Samarra said that at least 100 dead or wounded fighters had been brought in over the last four days and that “bodies are everywhere” at the facility. The witness asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Difficulties with the Tikrit operation underscore how unlikely it is that the Iraqi military will be in any position soon to launch an assault to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which fell to the Islamic State last June. A U.S. military officer in February created a stir when he told reporters at the Pentagon that such an assault might come as soon as April. Pentagon officials later acknowledged that Iraqi troops might not be in such a position before the fall.
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The 'Iraqi Forces' battling ISIS

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