Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Stephen Kalin / Reuters – 2016-03-06 02:39:33
UN: ‘Staggering’ Destruction in Iraq’s Ramadi
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 4, 2016) — 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.
UN Team Calls Destruction
In Iraq’s Ramadi ‘Staggering’
Stephen Kalin / Reuters
BAGHDAD (March 4, 2016) — Destruction in Ramadi is “staggering” and worse than anywhere else in Iraq, a UN team concluded this week after making the first assessment visit to the city since its recapture from Islamic State.
It said the main hospital and train station had both been destroyed, along with thousands of other buildings. Local officials told the UN team 64 bridges and much of the electricity grid had been ruined.
Iraqi forces declared victory over the jihadist group in Ramadi in December and has since cleared most of the western Iraqi city. Islamic State fighters still hold pockets in the northern and eastern outskirts.
Its recovery boosted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his campaign to oust the militants from their northern stronghold of Mosul later this year. But more than six months of fighting shattered most infrastructure and leveled many homes in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital where around half a million people once lived. The fighting saw Islamic State bomb attacks and devastating U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
“The destruction the team has found in Ramadi is worse than any other part of Iraq. It is staggering,” said Lise Grande, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.
The two-day assessment found that nearly every building had been damaged or destroyed in frontline areas. In other districts, one in three or four buildings were damaged, it said.
UN analysis of satellite imagery last month showed nearly 5,700 buildings in Ramadi and its outskirts had been damaged since mid-2014, with almost 2,000 completely destroyed. Grande said it was too early to say how much time and money it would take to rebuild.
The cash-strapped government in Baghdad is appealing to international donors to help the city, the largest retaken from Islamic State. It must first clear bombs planted by the militants in streets and buildings – an effort which also requires funding it lacks.
The assessment team said the greatest concentration of such explosives was reported in south-central Ramadi.
The United Nations is working with local authorities on plans to rebuild health, water and energy infrastructure. The UN team said a water plant in central Ramadi could probably be repaired quickly.
It said it had identified four potential relocation sites for returning civilians. Iraq’s central government has yet to give the all-clear for the return of residents.
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