Iraqi tribal forces on Monday (November 27th) launched an operation to clear the western Anbar desert of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) pockets.
A force consisting mainly of Albu Obeid tribesmen launched an operation to track down ISIS militants in the desert south of the Euphrates river on the side of al-Baghdadi district, said al-Baghdadi tribal mobilisation commander Sheikh Qatari al-Samarmad.
The tribal force is composed of hundreds of fighters armed with light and medium weapons, he told Diyaruna.
They have so far managed to advance 86 kilometres deep into the desert and searched several villages scattered there, he said, adding that they have uncovered a large stockpile of weapons.
They also have defused a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in various areas, he added.
The operation, conducted under the supervision of the Jazeera Operations Command, will continue until the desert is fully cleared of ISIS elements, al-Samarmad said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi troops supported by tribal fighters are near completing the operation they launched last week to pursue ISIS elements who had fled towards Rawa and the Upper Euphrates areas.
"The Jazeera Operations Command has allocated four battalions of tribesmen to participate in securing Anbar’s western desert," al-Samarmad said.
The battalions consist of about 2,000 fighters representing several tribes, most notably Albu Obeid, Albu Mahal, al-Jaghayfa, Albu Nimr and al-Karabila.
"The fighters continuously undergo training courses at Ain al-Assad camp in al-Baghdadi," he said.
This helps enhance their combat readiness and prepare them for taking part in the hunt for ISIS elements and for holding the liberated territory, he said.
The tribesmen’s participation in pursuing ISIS elements hiding in the desert is pivotal, he said.
"These fighters are not only good at fighting but are also familiar with the desert areas and roads and know the population there well," he added.
Al-Samarmad called on the Iraqi government to increase the number of tribal fighters in western Anbar.
The western districts of Anbar include large stretches of land, with a vast desert, he said, adding that a few battalions of local fighters will not be enough to secure the area.
Hundreds of members of tribes known as the Western tribes have volunteered to fight ISIS and protect their cities without any material return or compensation, he said.
A large group of them -- equal to about two battalions -- are currently involved in securing the areas of Barwana, al-Zawiya, al-Sakra and al-Maadid.