The Iraqi military has been touting its “liberation” of the Anbar capital city of Ramadi, in an offensive that began in December and continued well into February, as a key achievement in the war on ISIS. The first UN visit to assess the city paints a gloomier picture.
UN officials describe the level of destruction in Ramadi as “staggering,” saying the city is in far worse condition than anywhere else in all of Iraq. The main hospital is destroyed outright, as is the train station, and the city lost 64 bridges and virtually its entire electricity grid in the fighting.
The city once had a population of around 500,000, and is today largely empty, with no timetable for when the military will start allowing civilians back in. The UN assessment warned that simply clearing the city of all the explosives could take quite some time, and didn’t even hazard a guess on fixing everything that’s been destroyed.
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the reconstruction of Ramadi happening at all in the near-term, with the Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq already cash-strapped by falling oil prices and war, and unlikely to go into hock to rebuild an overwhelmingly Sunni city that was virtually in open rebellion before ISIS even got there.