Iraq’s receipt of four F-16 fighter jets will help efforts to retake Anbar, but competing agendas remain an obstacle.
Dozens of Iraqi forces have reportedly been killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq’s Anbar province, which has witnessed heavy fighting since Iraqi forces launched an offensive in July.
Three car bombs in Al Toui, northwest of Ramadi, killed at least 18 Iraqi forces and members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces on Monday, sources told Al Jazeera.
A total death toll of 46 Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation Forces has been reported following days of heavy clashes in several areas as Iraqi forces advanced in their offensive to recapture Anbar province.
At least seven ISIL fighters have been killed, military sources said.
Karim al-Nouri, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella organisation of mainly Shia militiamen, said the operation to recapture Anbar has been difficult but the forces have been able to advance towards Ramadi, the capital of Anbar.
“We entered from near Fallujah and pushed northwest of the city. We lost forces along the way but the army and several government hospitals have been a great help,” al-Nouri told Al Jazeera.
“Our aim is to trap ISIL, and it is no longer about who outnumbers who – it’s about the type of weapons being used and we are prepared.”
Al-Nouri said a large number of Iraqi soldiers, moblisation forces and tribal fighters were taking part in the operation.
ISIL captured Ramadi in early May and controls most of Anbar, including the city of Fallujah.
Anbar stretches from Iraq’s western borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all the way east along the Euphrates to the outskirts of Baghdad.
Iraqi forces and loyalists launched an offensive to recapture Anbar province in July, and have been trying to enter the province from several points but have been met with strong resistance from ISIL.
On Friday, ISIL ambushed Iraqi forces and loyalists west of Ramadi, killing up to 50 soldiers.
Anbar has been rocked by violence since the beginning of 2014, months before ISIL launched a nationwide offensive that saw it advance through northern Iraq.
It is currently the main focus of the Iraqi government’s efforts to regain lost ground, with large military operations under way in several parts of the province and multiple daily air strikes by jets from the US-led coalition.