The offensive to re-take Tikrit from extremists seems to have stalled as troops surround the city but cannot go further. The same thing is happening elsewhere. And there are three main reasons why.
While stopped on the edges of the city of Tikrit, Captain Ahmad Mahmoud says he told the soldiers under his command about the battle of Stalingrad, which started in Russia in 1942 between the attacking Germans and the Russians during World War II and did not end until early in 1943.
Despite the fact that the German army, led by Nazi commanders, had surrounded the city they were not able to take it from the Russians over months of prolonged, intensive and close fighting.
Mahmoud and his soldiers are part of a major military offensive in the province of Salahaddin which aims to take back territory currently controlled by the extremist group known as the Islamic State.
Earlier in March the Iraqi government sent the Iraqi army, alongside unofficial Shiite Muslim militias and with aid from local Sunni Muslim tribes, into the province of Salahaddin to take on fighters from the Islamic State, or IS.
At first progress of the offensive, ostensibly the Iraqi government’s first major campaign against the IS group, was good and within a week the forces were able to re-take the areas of al-Dour, al-Alam and Albu Ajil. But when it comes to the major city of Tikrit, which has been mostly abandoned by residents to the IS fighters, progress has slowed.
And Mahmoud seemed to think the same thing was happening to the Iraqi army in Tikrit as had happened in Stalingrad. The city was surrounded but, as he told NIQASH during a telephone interview, “we are just not trained to fight this way, on the street.
Even the Shiite militias, who are known for their street fighting skills, haven’t been able to break into the city and now the Islamic State is launching attacks on the surrounding troops, exhausting the men and inflicting casualties in a similar way to the Stalingrad scenario.”