Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Looks like Hawijah will be next

There's news today that new military reinforcements are being sent to the region east of Tikrit to prepare for an operation to retake the town of Hawijah. The reinforcements is supposedly a mix of army troops (5th and 10th divisions), federal police, counterterrorism service. The mix also involves volunteers from "Kirkuk Arabs", which would indicate Sunni tribes, instead of Shia militias. The decision to not include Shia militias, if true, is prudent given Hawijah's profile and symbolism. The town was the site of a deadly police crackdown against then peaceful protests (back in April 2013 when Maliki was in power). That incident no doubt exacerbated Iraq's domestic strife and accelerated the rise of ISIS the following year.

Done well, an operation to clear Hawijah would drastically degrade ISIS ability to operate in Diyala, counterattack in northern Salahaddin, or launch attacks against Kirkuk city. Taking Hawijah would probably be the final major shaping operation needed before Iraqi forces can plan a major push toward Sharqat and ultimately Mosul.

That said, the timing is interesting because the Iraqi forces are already busy fighting in Ramadi. Does this mean Baghdad feels confident assaulting two major ISIS strongholds simultaneously? Or could this be a feint meant to stretch ISIS forces thin?

No comments:

Post a Comment