ISIS Militants Overrun Poorly Equipped Iraqi Forces Despite Airstrikes
Despite airstrikes and international outrage against ISIS militants, the terror group is overrunning Iraqi forces and slowly marching on toward a province on Baghdad’s doorstep. And as alarming developments piled up over the weekend, Iraqi forces threatened to flee if the U.S. military does not intervene.
Here are where things stand:
On Baghdad’s doorstep
ISIS fighters are making headway against poorly equipped local forces. The Islamist extremists appear set to take Kobani, a key Syrian town along the Turkish border. Next up: a province on Baghdad’s doorstep.
Iraq’s Anbar province pleaded for U.S. ground troops to halt the group’s rapid, relentless assault.
The terror group came within 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of Baghdad’s airport, according to the leader of U.S. military efforts to fight ISIS in Iraq.
The United States brought in low-flying attack helicopters to keep ISIS at bay, Gen. Martin Dempsey told ABC on Sunday.
“You’re not going to wait until they’re climbing over the wall,” Dempsey said. “Had (ISIS forces) overrun the Iraqi unit, it was a straight shot to the Baghdad airport.”
Anbar province at risk
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is moving — fast.
The group, which calls itself the Islamic State, controls about 80% of the province, according to Sabah Al-Karhout, president of Anbar Provincial Council.
If the province falls, the Sunni extremists would take over an area from the perimeter of Iraq’s capital to Raqqa in Syria, according to Falleh al-Issawi, the provincial council’s deputy head.
Iraq’s military abandoned a strategically important base in Anbar after heavy fighting with ISIS militants, provincial security force sources told CNN on Monday.
The base outside Hit was one of the Shiite-led government’s few remaining military outposts in the predominantly Sunni province.
Targeting law enforcement
No one is safe from the militants. The police chief of the province was killed over the weekend when a blast targeted his convoy, authorities said.
The attack is just one of the things sending shock waves among forces fighting the militants.
Iraqi army forces and Anbar tribesmen have threatened to abandon their weapons if the U.S. military does not intervene.
The army soldiers lack training and equipment, according to local authorities. Already, some 1,800 tribesmen in the province have been killed or injured in the struggle.
Iraqi officials have been adamant that they don’t want U.S. forces on the ground. President Barack Obama has not shown any intent to deploy any.
Family of ISIS captive speaks
Meanwhile, the family of an ISIS captive, British journalist John Cantlie, is begging ISIS — also known as IS — to re-establish direct contact.
“This is frustrating for all parties, including those who are trying to assist us. We had previously been in contact through a channel started by you, but then this stopped for reasons best known to you,” Cantlie’s sister, Jessica Cantlie, said in a statement.
“We strongly challenge those holding John to return to your previously opened channel, to which we continue to send messages and await your response so that in keeping with everyone’s wishes, we can restart dialogue. We implore IS to reinitiate direct contact.”
Offensive against ISIS in Syria
ISIS is still advancing in Syria, where it emerged during that country’s civil war. Its focus is on Kobani, a Kurdish enclave a stone’s throw from Turkey.
The militants are gradually taking control of a large chunk of Kobani.
Monday was one of the most violent days since ISIS launched its assault on the city, with sounds of fierce fighting, including gunfire and explosions, CNN staff on the Syria-Turkey border said.
A fighter from the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, told CNN’s Arwa Damon that the battle was focusing on the main border crossing into Turkey. If ISIS took control, he said, “it’s over.”
On Saturday, ISIS fighters also clashed with local troops over the official border crossing into Turkey at Mursitpinar.
If they’re successful, the militants would control three official border crossings between Turkey and Syria and a stretch of the border about 60 miles (97 kilometers) long.
The U.S. military said it and its allies had attacked ISIS on Sunday and Monday, launching four airstrikes southwest of Kobani, three northeast of the city and one northwest of Raqqa.