Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fallujah’s Forever War

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, desperate for a victory, declared last week that Fallujah had been liberated. Iraqi commanders said they were just clearing remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters. But U.S. military officials said the battle for the iconic Islamic State stronghold is far from over, and that only roughly one-third of the city had been recaptured from the jihadist group.

Inside Fallujah, 

It’s clear the clashes are continuing. Black smoke rose from airstrikes in the north of the city over the weekend, and the rattle of heavy machine gun fire and the thud of mortars echoed from adjoining neighborhoods.

 Tens of thousands of civilians have managed to flee unharmed, but now face another struggle for survival in makeshift desert camps without enough water or even toilets and where health care workers say they are treating over 1,000 undernourished people per day.

 After the Iraqi government unexpectedly launched the Fallujah battle in May, it took five weeks to fight into the center of the city. Retaking the provincial capital of Ramadi this year took 18 months and left the city heavily damaged.

 In fact at least 80,000 people stayed in Fallujah, and almost all of them are now under suspicion by security forces of supporting the Islamic State. As the families have escaped the city, Iraqi security forces have separated the men and older boys from their families, taking them away for screening. They spend days in an overcrowded warehouse with little food or water, where security forces lack the computers necessary to verify their identities.