Daesh launched yet another surprise attack against Iraq’s rear areas in a town that was supposed to have been “liberated” in September, exposing how Iraqi forces have been ineffective in securing towns and cities before moving on to launch their almost three-week-old offensive against Mosul.
In the early hours of this morning, Daesh assaulted Shirqat in Salahuddin province, over 100 kilometres from Mosul, Iraq’s second city and Daesh’s last major urban stronghold in the country.
Daesh claims that it has taken over several districts in the small town, and has apparently torched a police station, capturing five police officers and killing other Iraq Security Forces (ISF) troops, including an officer. Daesh also control the main hospital.
Local activists have confirmed that several Iraqi armoured vehicles and personnel carriers were destroyed by the militants, including supply trucks apparently destined for Shia militias near the Mosul frontlines.
Fighting in Shirqat is ongoing, with ISF in disarray.
When Shirqat was recaptured by ISF in September, their victory was touted as a stepping stone on the road to prising Mosul from Daesh’s grip. At the time, it was hailed as a significant advance but today’s attack highlights the weakness of ISF soldiers in holding territory.
Iraqi authorities failing to prevent Daesh attacks
Since the Iraqi government launched its US-backed offensive to recapture Mosul on 17 October, Daesh have not only managed to hold off any real advance into the city itself, but have also managed to launch devastating attacks across the country.
Daesh first breached Kirkuk’s defences, more than 170 kilometres from Mosul, and put the city into disarray for almost a week. The attack was eventually repulsed, but not before dozens of Kurdish security forces died, shaking confidence in their ability to detect and prevent attacks.
Following the assault on Kirkuk, Daesh successfully attacked Rutba, almost 600 kilometres south of Mosul, and held it for three days until ISF forces managed to take it back with air support from the international US-led coalition.
Analysts have said that this may herald a future Daesh strategic shift from holding towns and cities to disrupting security and economic activity in these cities once they are retaken, making the rule of Iraqi and Kurdish authorities untenable.