KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The Iraqi Air Force posted dramatic video online today that appears to show an attack on ISIS. The country's military says that along with the U.S.-led coalition, it has destroyed hundreds of ISIS vehicles and killed many fighters in the last few days. NPR's Alice Fordham joins us to talk about this from Beirut. Hello.
ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.
MCEVERS: So why is this video getting so much attention?
FORDHAM: Well, it's very striking. It's been shot from a plane, and it shows a whole convoy of vehicles being hit there like a row of smoking dots along what looks like a desert road. And the video was shot late Tuesday night. The Air Force says this is a convoy in an area close to the city of Fallujah, really not too far away from Baghdad, as you know. And it's one of several ISIS convoys hit over the last three days.
The U.S.-led coalition, as you said, have also been involved in these strikes. They say they took out about 55 vehicles on Tuesday night and 120 yesterday. We haven't seen any confirmation from ISIS yet, but it's certainly true that until recently, they had a big presence in this province, in Anbar Province, and that they have been on the run lately.
MCEVERS: All right, so these vehicles in this convoy that were shot in this video, where are they going?
FORDHAM: The city of Fallujah was recently lost. And the Iraqi Security Forces and their allies went in and took it back from ISIS. And it seems like from what the Iraqi Security Forces are saying, the ISIS fighters were trying to proceed along the Euphrates River Valley all the way into Syria where ISIS still hold a lot of territory. This is a real time of triumph for Iraqis.
Military commanders and the prime minister have been celebrating in Fallujah this week, even though there are still tens of thousands of people from Fallujah displaced, stuck in the desert nearby in inadequate camps. It's not clear when they'll be able to go home. And the provincial capital Ramadi, which was retaken six months ago, much of that still has explosives, it has mines.
And that's not really fit for people to go back to either.
MCEVERS: So is this a big win for the Iraqi military?
FORDHAM: Yeah, well, the Iraqi Security Forces and their allies are definitely making progress. The retaking of Fallujah happened relatively quickly, something in the region of five weeks. And reports indicate that the destruction in the city is nothing like as bad as the destruction in the provincial capital Ramadi were very widely damaged in the fighting.
But it's worth noting that it was two years ago this week that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced what he called the caliphate in the largest mosque in the big city of Mosul further north in Iraq. We haven't heard from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently, but ISIS does still hold Mosul. And there's maybe more than five times as many people live there as lived in Fallujah.
And it's also maybe worth thinking about the fact that Iraq still doesn't really have a stable political structure to replace ISIS in these areas. There's still something of a political vacuum, which has really slowed down things like reconstruction and reconciliation projects.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Alice Fordham. Thank you.
FORDHAM: Thanks for having me.
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