Islamic State fighters are planting improvised explosive devices around Ramadi as Iraqi forces on the city limits prepare for a counterattack to retake the city, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said terrorist fighters are “preparing for a defense” by digging berms, placing IEDs and sending supplies into Ramadi to reinforce the fighters there. He declined to provide a number of Islamic State forces currently holding control of the city.
Ramadi, which is the capital of the Sunni Anbar province, fell to the Islamic State earlier this month in a major setback for Iraqi and coalition forces. The defeat lead many to wonder if Iraqi fighters were adequately prepared to defeat the terrorist fighters, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter who questioned their “will to fight” on Sunday.
Iraqi “shaping operations” to retake Ramadi, assisted by Shiite militias, began on Tuesday, Col. Warren said, though he would provide no details on when the assault will take place.
While Iraqi fighters surround the city’s outskirts to the south, east and northeast, Col. Warren said there is a “line into Ramadi from the west” that allows supplies to enter the city from Syria and other parts of Iraq.
Coalition airstrikes are interdicting those supplies moving into the city when able, Col. Warren said. On Monday, the U.S. conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, though none were near Ramadi, according to a Defense Department release.
A series of car bombs last week began the attack that ultimately gave the Islamic State control of the city. The U.S. is sending Iraqis 2,000 AT4s, portable anti-tank weapons that will be effective against IEDs planted in vehicles. Col. Warren said he expected those weapons to begin arriving in June.