US hails recapture of Ramadi by Iraqi forces
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
Iraqis drive their vehicles early on December 29, 2015 through the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after Iraqi forces recaptured the city from from ISIL. AFP PhotoThe United States on Dec. 28 welcomed the Iraqi forces’ victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in the city of Ramadi.
“We commend the government of Iraq and the brave Iraqi forces that are displaying tremendous perseverance and courage in this fight,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a written statement.
Iraq had earlier declared that it had liberated Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, and was sweeping it for bombs and booby traps left behind by ISIL fighters.
A U.S.-led military coalition is supporting Iraq’s campaign to drive ISIL from the country and carried out 630 air strikes during the Iraqi operation in Ramadi.
A White House official said President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, had been briefed on the battle and had saluted the Iraqi forces’ “courage and determination.”
“We will continue to support our partners fighting against ISIL on the ground until it is defeated,” the official said.
Concerns have been expressed that the Shiite militia units that supported the government offensive may mistreat the mainly Sunni civilians living in liberated Anbar cities.
But Washington welcomed the victory, which Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said was a step towards the next campaign to liberate the northern city of Mosul in 2016.
“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s presence in Iraq will be terminated,” Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL that the hardline group rejects.
“We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to Daesh,” he added. Mosul, northern Iraq’s main city, is by far the largest population center in the self-proclaimed caliphate Islamic State rules in Iraq and Syria.
Joining the rank of congratulating Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Dec. 28 said that defeating ISIL in Ramadi was a significant step in the combat against the jihadists.
“The expulsion of ISIL by Iraqi security forces ... is a significant step forward in the campaign to defeat this barbaric group,” Carter said in a statement, according to Reuters.
“Now it’s important for the Iraqi government ... to seize this opportunity to maintain the peace in Ramadi, prevent the return of ISIL and other extremists, and facilitate the return of Ramadi’s citizens back to the city.”
Meanwhile, other European countries contributing to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL also commended the Iraqi forces.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond congratulated the Iraqi government after the national flag was raised over the provincial capital of Anbar.
“This is the latest in a series of significant losses for Daesh. These barbaric terrorists have lost 30 percent of the territory they once held in Iraq,” Hammond said in a statement.
French President Francois Hollande called the liberation of Ramadi the “most important victory yet” in the fight against the jihadists.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “it shows once again that ISIL is not unbeatable.”