Though it is still nominally controlled by the Iraqi military, the key Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib continues to have a significant ISIS presence, meaning the fighters are just eight miles away from the runways of Baghdad Airport.
It’s not ISIS’ first attempt at taking Abu Ghraib, as they made a serious push back in April which forced Iraq to close the notorious prison there. Yet with a US air war now underway, the situation could be quite different.
ISIS now not only has the anti-aircraft weapons the Saudis provided to various Syrian rebel factions, but also everything they looted in the takeover of Mosul. That means, just a stone’s throw from the airport, they have shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles capable of downing the airliners.
That could be a game-changer for the US war in Iraq, as many of the ground troops deployed to Baghdad are nominally there to ensure control of the airport and the corridor between it and the US Embassy. That may not mean much if ISIS starts shooting down the planes.
US airstrikes in the area have focused on the outskirts of Ramadi and Fallujah, the major Anbar cities, but ISIS continues to advance down the highway, once again underscoring how little the war is accomplishing.