Washington Puts Mosul Offensive on Hold as ISIS Strategy Shifts to Ramadi

Ramadi ISIS Iraq Baghdad Obama
Iraqi soldiers train with members of the U.S. Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Camp Taji, Iraq, in this U.S. Army photo released June 2, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Sgt. Cody Quinn

US President Barack Obama is to focus American military efforts on recapturing the city of Ramadi instead of Iraq's second city of Mosul, as he prepares to establish a new military base and send hundreds of trainers to Anbar province to assist the Iraqi military in their battle against Isis in light of Baghdad's shortcomings.

The radical terror group seized the city last month as Iraqi troops abandoned their positions when faced by a force of only a few hundred Isis militants, aided by sleeper cells and double agents within the Iraqi security forces inside Ramadi.

The loss of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, dealt a significant blow to Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi and the US-led coalition's mission to oust the terror group from the territory it captured when it swept across the country last summer.

The victory for Isis saw Iraqi forces spread across the country's western and northern regions, almost certainly delaying a projected spring offensive on Mosul to 2016 and forcing Washington to recalibrate their strategy towards the group.

Therefore, the Obama administration is set to announce today that approximately 450 additional advisers will be deployed to the region west of Baghdad, the New York Times reported. The change in plan comes after the embarrassment of the Iraqi security forces losing Ramadi, a major city just 105km (65 miles) west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Analysts say that the refocusing of American military efforts is logical because of the proximity of Ramadi to the capital and the long-term nature of any effort to wrestle Mosul back from the group.

"[Ramadi] is pretty close to Baghdad and certainly that has to be the focus of attention," says Jordan Perry, principal MENA analyst at global risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft. "One of the key problems here is it seems to reinforce all of the worst fears that Western partners had about the readiness of the Iraqi military."

"It is an acknowledgement by Washington that the level of support at the moment is not enough and, despite the internal weaknesses of the Iraqi military, it is important to step up training, support and arms to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq," he adds. "So, in essence, there is certainly a shift back to Ramadi."

Obama admitted earlier this week that Washington does not have a "complete strategy" in regard to the training of Baghdad's forces. General Martin Dempsey, Washington's top military chief, told reporters today that he is waiting for an assessment from General Lloyd Austin, the military chief in charge of Washington's operations in the region, before deciding whether the opening of new training facilities in Iraq would require additional US boots on the ground.

There are some 3,100 US troops still stationed in Iraq in various capacities, such as advisers, trainers, security and logistics personnel.

While Washington accelerates the supply of arms and training to the Iraqi military in Anbar, it is also continuing with its campaign against Isis elsewhere. Brett McGurk, the US' deputy special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter Isil (another term for Isis), confirmed last night that the American military had carried out 83 air strikes against Isis positions in Raqqa, Mosul, Beiji (the site of Iraq's biggest oil refinery) and Kobane in the three days prior.