Anbar is the largest and one of the most sparsely populated governorates in Iraq. The governorate has seven districts: Ana, Fallujah, Haditha, Heet, al-Qaim, Ramadi and al-Rutba and borders with three countries, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The capital of Anbar is Ramadi. For 2019, the governorate’s estimated population was at 1 818 318. The governorate is predominately inhabited by Sunni Arabs.
In 2014, ISIL seized control of the governorate’s cities and the ISF largely fled and abandoned their positions. The military offensive to retake ISIL territory was formally concluded in November 2017. The ISF have the overall responsibility of the security within the governorate, however, one source indicated that State authority was reported to be weak. Some parts of Anbar governorate, particularly along the Syrian and Iraqi border with vast desert areas, are considered hard to control. Several PMU also operate in Anbar, however lack of coordination among them, lack of a unified security strategy and non-clarity as to whom they are accountable to, have raised concerns and distrust among the civilian population. Tribal leaders and Sunni clerics still maintain a high level of authority in local affairs. Tribal Mobilization Forces are also based in Anbar governorate and ISIL is still present in Anbar. Security vacuums caused by re-deployments of ISF to anti-government protests, the COVID-19 lockdown, as well as the withdrawal of most US forces from Iraq, have reportedly been exploited by ISIL to gain strength and regroup. ISIL operations have been reported across the governorate in Anbar, largely in the western desert areas. As of March 2020, US forces reportedly continue to hold two military bases in Anbar governorate near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
In an escalation of hostilities between the US and Iran, a series of attacks, including airstrikes, took place between December 2019 and January 2020 in Iraq, some of which were reported in Anbar governorate. Subsequently, both sides sought to deescalate the crisis. Anti-ISIL security sweeps and military operations of varying scales reportedly continue in Anbar governorate, particularly in western Anbar, throughout 2019 and 2020. ISIL remnants frequently carried out asymmetric attacks against the Iraqi people and security forces in the governorate. After April 2019, Anbar saw the return of attempted mass casualty attacks, as well as increased intimidation of rural tribes with terror tactics, such as attempted suicide bombings targeting markets, mosques, and shepherds. During the first quarter of 2020, monthly average ISIL attacks jumped to 27.6 in Anbar, triple the average of 2019. Roadside bombings were used more frequently, mostly targeting soft-skinned civilian vehicles of the PMU. Larger-scale tactical operations with men armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and mortars were reported for the same period, as well as more sniper attacks targeting village mukhtars. It was reported that Anbar was no longer the centre for the insurgency like it used to be, and attacks have largely subsided by June 2020.
ACLED reported a total of 240 security incidents (average of 2.9 security incidents per week) in Anbar governorate in the reference period, the majority of which coded as battles and incidents of remote violence/explosions. Security incidents occurred in all districts of the governorate, with the largest overall number being recorded in the district of Al-Rutba. UNAMI recorded 34 armed conflict related incidents, 30 taking place in 2019 and 4 from 1st January until 31st July 2020 (average of 0.4 security incidents per week for the full reference period).
In the reference period, UNAMI recorded a total of 120 civilian casualties (50 deaths and 70 injuries) in the aforementioned armed conflict related incidents. More specifically, 105 casualties were reported in 2019 and 15 casualties from January until 31st July 2020. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate, this represents 7 civilian casualties per 100 000 inhabitants for the full reference period.
As of 30 June 2020, 10 % of the total IDP population in Iraq originates from Anbar governorate. Returns to Anbar governorate outpace displacement and Anbar governorate continues to have the second highest number of returnees, with a total of 1 503 468 returnees recorded as of 30 June 2020. Anbar governorate hosts the third highest number of returnees living in ‘severe conditions’. Anbar governorate also hosts a total number of 36 162 IDPs. 44 % of IDPs in Anbar governorate are assessed to be living in ‘critical shelters’, making Anbar the governorate with the highest proportion of IDPs living in ‘critical shelters’ in Iraq. During 2019, many IDPs were reportedly forced into secondary displacement due to forced and premature returns and forced or coerced departures from camps and informal settlements throughout Iraq, including in Anbar governorate.
Anbar has been one of the governorates with high scores of critical infrastructure damage as a result of the conflict. This relates in particular to damage to housing, to the agricultural sector, to essential municipal services, as well as the industry and commerce sectors. Reconstruction and rehabilitation projects continued in Anbar governorate throughout 2019 and 2020 however one source reported that reconstruction in governorates badly affected by the conflict, including Anbar, was still slow throughout 2019. Explosive ordnance contamination is reported to pose an obstacle to safe returns of IDPs as well as to the provision of humanitarian activities in more than one third of the districts assessed in Anbar.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the governorate of Anbar, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.1