The U.S.-led coalition’s newest outpost in the fight against Daesh (ISIS) is in a dusty corner of western Iraq near the border with Syria.
Using racks of radio and satellite equipment, the coalition forces and Iraqi officers at the base pass information between forces on the ground and Al Asad air base, the coalition’s main base in Anbar province some 130 kilometers to the east.
Along the river on the Syrian side, Syrian government forces took the city of Deir al-Zor last week and the border town of Albukamal facing Al-Qaim Thursday.
U.S. Marines Col. Seth W. B. Folsom, commander of Task Force Lion, oversaw the Al-Qaim fight and said he expects clearing and holding the retaken territory in Anbar to be more difficult than the assault itself.
Much of Anbar and Iraq’s border with Syria has been beyond central control for decades.
Iraq’s Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) – the mostly Shiite and largely Iranian-backed paramilitary forces – have also built up their presence along Iraq’s border with Syria.
Coalition forces do not directly coordinate with Al-Hashd al-Shaabi, but rely on the Iraqi military to relay their movements to avoid striking the fighters.
He served in Anbar in 2007, unlike most of his comrades, who are on their first deployment to Iraq. He never thought he’d be back, but now believes there will be a U.S. presence in Iraq for generations to come.