Iraqi-allied forces have launched a new offensive to retake two major provinces from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to local media reports.
The new push comes from the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which helped the Iraqi army in its successful operation in the city of Tikrit earlier this year.
“This is a continuation of the Tikrit operation. It is to cut the supply route from Baiji oil refinery in the north to Ramadi. After the call of the prime minister, we answered the call,” al-Shaabi spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi told CNN. The group will focus on both the Anbar and Salaheddin provinces.
CNN also reports that Iraqi state television aired a banner that said: “Defense Minister: Vast operations are underway, coordinating between our Armed Forces and the heroic forces of al-Hashd al-Shaabi to liberate Ramadi from Daesh.”
Daesh is the Arab term for the terror group.
The military operation comes just days after the city of Ramadi, in Anbar province, fell to ISIS forces.
American Defense Secretary Ashton Carter criticized the Iraqi military for a lack of resolve as ISIS took the city.
“The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight,” Carter said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq also heaped criticism on his country’s army, calling the withdrawal from Ramadi surprising during an interview with CNN Monday.