by Amanda Casanova | “Dear Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated, and your towns and villages have been returned to the homeland,” the prime minster said in a televised speech this weekend. “The dream of liberation became a reality (YouTube).”
The Iraqi military says it has “fully liberated” the territories that had been under the control of “ISIS terrorist gangs.”
“Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border,” Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on his Twitter account. “We defeated Daesh (ISIS) through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.”
ISIS had taken control of many large territories in Syria and Iraq. According to CNN, the group controlled more than 34,000 square miles of area from the Mediterranean coast to just south of Baghdad.
Over the past few months, Iraqi soldiers have been working to reclaim those territories. In November, the last town under ISIS control was reclaimed.
The campaign took more than three years and included about 25,000 coalition airstrikes.
“ISIS dream has come to an end,” he added. “We must remove all its effects and should not allow terrorism to return again.”
Experts estimate that ISIS has displaced more than 3.2 million people.
“Our people have paid a high price for its security and stability and the blood of its finest youth, men and women,” Al-Abadi said. “Millions of families have suffered the hardships of displacement.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said the U.S. would still be available to held Iraqis. The U.S. has contributed nearly $1.7 billion in assistance dollars to Iraq since 2014. Another $265 million was also spent to help with stabilization in the country.
“We honor the sacrifices of the Iraqi people, its security forces, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, and admire the unity in their ranks that had made this day possible,” Brett McGurk wrote on his Twitter. “That spirit must be renewed and continue as Iraq works to consolidate these historic gains over the coming year.
“Our @coalition will continue to stand with #Iraq to support its security forces, economy, and stabilization to help ensure that #ISIS can never again threaten Iraq’s people or use its territory as a haven,” he wrote. “We mark today’s historic victory mindful of the work that remains.”