On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the nation’s security forces have overcome ISIS and taken back all the land the terrorist organization once occupied.
During a televised speech, al-Abadi said in part:
Today, our troops were able to purge islands of Nineveh and Anbar in full, and they (the forces) are now fully controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders. These victories are not only for the Iraqis alone, though the Iraqis were themselves who achieved such victories with their sacrifices. But the victories are for all Arabs, Muslims and the world alike …
Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated. … The flag of Iraq is flying high today over all Iraqi territory and at the farthest point on the border.
ISIS controlled “nearly a third of Iraqi territory” in 2014, according to the Associated Press. The Islamic State created strongholds in the cities of Tikrit, Mosul, and Ramadi, which were then slowly liberated over the course of the last three years.
Recapturing territory from the Islamic State is certainly something to celebrate, however ISIS isn’t simply a territory-based organization. In the wake of this victory, authorities in Iraq will have to maintain the land they recaptured, rebuild what was destroyed, and combat insurgent attacks.
An Iraqi security official told the Associated Press that “intelligence gathering would become increasingly important in the post-military phase of the fight against IS.”
CBC’s Rebecca Collard notes that “while [the Iraqi security forces] may now have actually defeated ISIS territorially — they’ve managed to take back all the territory the militants once controlled — that doesn’t mean … that all the fighters are gone.”
Collard added that “what we might see is more attacks on soft and civilian targets, so ambushes of checkpoints, attacks on markets, this sort of thing because in some ways it may be just as dangerous for a lot of people in the country because there’s no longer this front line.”
… I think that there is an intention from ISIS, a will from ISIS, and from those that remain in the country, to destabilize it, to keep Iraq not secure. They don’t want to see the Iraqi prime minister and the government in Baghdad exert sovereignty over the whole country and they don’t want to see peace and security.