Operation Free Tal Afar: Iraq attacks final Islamic State stronghold
Iraq has now launched an offensive to push IS out of its last stronghold, in the city of Tal Afar. "I am telling IS that there is no choice other than to surrender or die," noted Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, ahead of launching the offensive. However, reports from the ground indicate that Iraqi troops will have to face tough resistance from IS fighters.
It was the biggest city to fall under ISIS control and also where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced his caliphate in 2014. In January, the Iraqi government had announced the "liberation" of eastern Mosul. The western part of the city, including the Old City, which features narrow, winding streets has presented a difficult tactical challenge for Iraqi forces.
IS conquered Tal Afar, a Shia dominated area located about 55-km east of Mosul, in 2014. The city reportedly holds 1500-2000 IS militants and their families. Located on the road between Mosul and Syria, Tal Afar was a major link in the IS supply line. The Iraqi Air Force has already been bombing key positions in the city in preparation for ground attacks.
Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of Operation Free Tal Afar on Sunday. Giving the IS a choice to surrender or die, he concluded his speech telling the Iraqi troops that, "the whole world is with you." In preparation for the attack, the Iraqi Army further air dropped leaflets reading, "battle is imminent and the victory is coming, God willing."
Iraqi Army definitely won territories back from IS and killed a number of fighters. However, the battle is not won. IS remains alive in the form of its ideology that prompts many to target civilians using unconventional means such as knives and vehicles all over the world. It may even be impossible to kill the ideology and defeat IS in the near future.