BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi on Saturday declared the end of military operations against Daesh and the liberation of all Iraqi territory formerly held by it.
“Your land has been completely liberated, and your raped cities and villages have returned to the homeland, and the dream of liberation has become a reality,” he said in a broadcast address to the Iraqi people.
“We have accomplished the difficult mission in hard circumstances, and we have won with the help of God, the steadfastness of our people and the bravery of our armed forces,” he added.
“We declare to our people and to all the world that the our heroes arrived at the last Daesh stronghold, liberated it and raised the flag of Iraq over the western parts of Anbar (province).”
Abadi said Sunday would be a national holiday to celebrate “Victory Day.”
Vast swathes of northern and western Iraq fell to Daesh in June 2014. Since then, Iraqi security forces, backed by Shiite-dominated paramilitary groups and the US-led coalition, have fought to liberate those lands.
Tens of thousands of civilians and security personnel were killed, and more than 5 million people displaced, during the war, with an estimated $100 billion worth of destruction to infrastructure and private property.
Al-Jazeera, the vast desert between Anbar in the west and Nineveh province in the north, which stretches along the border with Syria, was Daesh’s last stronghold in Iraq.
Abadi’s announcement came after Special Forces Gen. Abdul-Ameer Yar Allah, commander of operations in Al-Jazeera and the Upper Euphrates, said his troops had completed their mission by liberating the desert area and taking control of the 183-km-long border with Syria.
The end of the war leaves Iraq facing many challenges, particularly corruption, against which Abadi launched a campaign last month.
“Combating corruption in Iraq is much harder than combating Daesh,” Rahman Al-Jobouri, a political analyst based in the US, told Arab News.
“Abadi needs time and political will. He doesn’t have much time until the elections, and the political will isn’t available.”