Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite and Sunni pro-government fighters clash with Islamic State group militants at the front line in the eastern suburb of Ramadi, Anbar province, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. (AP Photo)
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Slow gains in Anbar set pace for offensiveAfter only modest gains in the first few weeks of their drive to retake Anbar province, Iraqi government forces have given up hopes of swift advances against ISIS militants.Fighting has progressed fitfully on both fronts, with Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes dismantling an insurgent command base in Ramadi last week, while Shiite militias spearhead efforts to disrupt militant supply routes to Fallujah.Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Islamist, initially sought to keep Shiite militias on the sidelines in Anbar for fear of inflaming sectarian sensitivities, but Ramadi's fall undermined his position.The militias, organized under a government umbrella called the Popular Mobilization units, have said they will take the lead on the ground in Fallujah, not the army.The Anbar offensive tests the effectiveness of a thorny arrangement that puts the U.S.-led coalition, however reluctantly, on the same side of a fight as Iranian-backed militias in support of Iraqi forces.Qais al-Khazali, leader of one of the fiercest militia, condemned Washington in a Reuters interview last month for pressuring Abadi to keep militia fighters out of Fallujah and far from Ramadi.
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