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US says Iraqis now in position to retake Ramadi

Washington: After months of preliminary skirmishes and hundreds of US airstrikes, conditions are now right for Iraq to launch a decisive assault on Ramadi and reclaim the provincial capital from Islamic State fighters, a US military official said today.

Army Col Steve Warren, a spokesman in Baghdad for the US-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said Iraqi ground forces have advanced about nine miles in recent days and are in the city’s outer suburbs.

He said Iraqi F-16 fighter jets have recently joined the battle in support of Iraqi ground forces.

“Iraqi ground forces recently trained by the (U.S.-led) coalition have been deployed around Ramadi in time for the decisive phase of this operation,” Warren said, referring to a counteroffensive that the Iraqi government announced in July but that has been stalled for numerous reasons, including the Islamic State’s effective use of improvised land mines.

The counteroffensive also has been weakened by sectarian divisions within the Iraqi government.

“We now believe that battlefield conditions are set for the ISF to push into the city,” Warren added, using an acronym for Iraqi Security Forces, which collapsed in Ramadi in May, allowing the Islamic State to capture the Sunni city.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province.

The loss of Ramadi was the most damaging Iraqi setback this year against the Islamic State, which in 2014 captured the northern city of Mosul and still controls much of northern and western Iraq despite more than a year of US airstrikes.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said after the Ramadi loss that it showed the Iraqi army had “no will to fight.”

Since then the U.S. Had stepped up its training of Iraqi forces and encouraged the Iraqi government to make a push into Ramadi.