ISIS Inches Toward Baghdad as Iraqi Police and Tribal Fighters Run out of Bullets


ISIS continued its advance east across Iraq toward Baghdad Friday with the capture of another town in Anbar province. Mere days before, ISIS seized the provincial capital of Ramadi, as Sunni tribesman and Iraqi police defending it ran out of bullets, a Sunni tribal leader said.

The terror group captured the town of Husseiba which is located 6.5km (4 miles) east of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar and the key city the militants seized last week, after the combined Iraqi forces retreated.

"We have not received any assistance from the government," tribal leader Sheikh Rafie al-Fahdawi told the Associated Press. "Our men fought to the last bullet and several of them were killed."

"We are running short of arms and ammunition and we appealed yesterday for reinforcements. Zero additional troops plus zero ammunition back-up lead to zero morale for our fighters," he also told Reuters. "Today we retreated to Siddiqiya and I'm not sure if my fighters will hold up for much longer: they are tired and broken."

The loss of Husseiba left the terror group just 5km (3.1 miles) from the strategic military base of Habbaniyah which houses Iraqi forces and some of the Shia militiamen preparing for an assault to retake Ramadi.

Sajad Jiyad, Baghdad-based Iraq expert and director of research at Independent Consultancy Integrity, says that a lack of ammunition is hampering all parties fighting Isis in Iraq but there is a fear that arming Sunni tribesman could see the weapons fall into the hands of the terror group or be turned on the Shia-majority Iraqi forces if sectarian violence breaks out.

"There's definitely a logistical problem. There is a general problem with supply lines and logistics. Everybody suffers from that. The militias, the Iraqi army, the police, the locals. They have lost their route into Anbar [in Ramadi], so there is a wider problem."

"There's also an issue with supplying weapons when there is a very real risk when those weapons could end up in the hands of Isis. We saw that happen in Ramadi."

However, others argue that by allegedly fighting to the last bullet, the Sunni tribesmen in Husseiba had demonstrated that they are willing to defend the town from Isis, and so should have been armed by Baghdad.

"Clearly, this latest episode demonstrates how desperately [Iraqi PM Haider] al-Abadi needs to arm the Sunni tribesmen because in this case it sounds like the Sunni tribes did indeed want to resist Islamic State but they simply ran out of bullets," argues Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"That should not happen, there should really be a fire under this government to resist Islamic State in every way possible," he added.

Despite complaints of a lack of resources from Sunni tribes, Baghdad is still receiving large arms shipments from Washington. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that it was to send 2,000 anti-tank rockets to Baghdad. In February, Washington accelerated the transfer of 10,000 rifles and $17.9m in military supplies for the the Iraqi army.

Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren confirmed that, in the transfer, 10,000 red-dot-sight rifles and up to 100,000 magazines of ammunition had been dispatched to Iraq in just 22 days for a transfer which would usually have taken up to four months.