SOUTHWEST ASIA, Sept. 21, 2017 —
Iraqi security forces initiated major combat operations in Huwayjah during today's early morning hours, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized control of the city in early 2014, officials said in a statement announcing the new offensive. Huwayjah became isolated from the rest of ISIS' territory in July 2016 during the battle of Mosul, when Shirqat was captured by Iraqi troops, they added.
Liberating Iraqi Civilians
"The liberation of Huwayjah will be yet another major achievement in the Iraqi forces' relentless drive to liberate civilians trapped by ISIS," said Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney of the British Army, the task force's deputy commander for strategy and support.
Following rapid successes against ISIS in and around Tal Afar, Akashat, Haditha and Rayhanna, Iraqi forces began their offensive into the Middle Euphrates River Valley, which stands as one of two remaining pockets of ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq, along with western Anbar province, officials said.
"The rapid, recent success of the Iraqi security forces points to [their] momentum in the campaign to destroy ISIS in Iraq," said U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, the coalition's spokesman. "ISIS has never been capable of providing effective governance or services that benefited the people under its rule. Its defeat in Iraq further demonstrates ISIS is an organization in decline, whose leaders are no longer capable of effective military command and control."
Recent ISIS attacks on civilian targets signal a shift in tactics from an organization unable to contend on the battlefield, Dillon said. "The coalition will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the [Iraqi security forces] in their fight against a brutal and backward organization and its ideology," he added.