ISIS has taken a beating recently, and nothing more so than the defeat in Fallujah this weekend. ISIS loses ground more and more these days, and it is a sign of a turning of the tide for the fight against ISIS.
Iraqi security forces have begun a siege on the ISIS stronghold of Fallujah, and have captured the majority of the city from ISIS fighters. The city center and former government buildings are already under the control of the Iraqi security forces. The recent siege of Fallujah lasted about one week, with missiles fired into the city at ISIS fighting positions. Finally, after a few days, the ISIS fighters were weakened, and the assault into the city began on Friday.
ISIS have held this city for more than two years, and this is a devastating loss for ISIS. There are still some pockets of fighting, but for the most part the city is under Iraqi control. ISIS has abandoned checkpoints throughout the city and have fled the city. In fact, before the siege, ISIS had 90,000 civilians trapped in the city, with the policy that no one can leave, and if they try to leave the city, they would be killed. This position was reversed, and over a 24 hour period, almost 70,000 people fled the city. This has caused yet another refugee crisis, as dealing with that many people will be difficult. Most refugees are currently living in informal camps in shoddy conditions.
Why would ISIS do this? Why would they give up? Leading experts say that this may be because the experienced fighters should live to fight another day. Fallujah was lost; that fact was abundantly clear, so ISIS must have decided to play the long game, allowing their strong fighters a chance to fight again, rather than die on the streets of Fallujah.
This is perhaps the most serious and crushing defeat for ISIS, as it is close to the capital Baghdad, and marks a major city that has been taken back. Fallujah has always proven to be a problem city, as during the Iraq War, Fallujah was a place of significant fighting and damage between US troops and the enemy. But this time the fighting has been swift and strong, however when the dust settles, we will find out how much of the city is left. In the retaking of Ramadi, nearly 70% of the city was destroyed, so hopefully that is not the case with Fallujah.
Additionally, ISIS likes to leave the city booby-trapped with explosives hidden around the city, so these will need to be cleared before people can rebuild their lives and communities there. We won’t know for a while how the city will fare, but it will certainly do better now that it is not under the control of ISIS.
Now on to Mosul.