Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says his country's "next battle" is to retake the western province of Anbar from Daesh (ISIS).
"Our next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it," Abadi said on Wednesday from a base in the province west of Baghdad.
Al-Abadi made the remarks while visiting Iraqi army units and volunteer forces in the province.
The remarks by the premier are considered the most direct statement yet on Baghdad's next target in the fight against Daesh militants.
This comes as Iraqi officials have remained divided about where to next confront Daesh after their recent victory over the extremist group in the northern city of Tikrit.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security sources say army troops along with Shiite popular forces and Sunni tribesmen have already launched an operation east of Anbar's provincial capital of Ramadi.
Iraqi army commanders say they have managed to force the extremists out the Sijariya area, east of Ramadi. Sources say clearing the Sijariya area will help government forces secure supply routes to a nearby airbase.
Iraqi forces will seek to drive out Daesh militants from their positions in cities along the Euphrates River in the largely deserted Anbar Province.
On March 31, units of government forces, backed by volunteer forces, managed to retake control of Tikrit after heavy battles with Daesh.
Located some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad, Tikrit was overrun by Daesh in summer 2014 along with Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and other areas in the Arab country’s Sunni heartland. Tikrit has a strategic position as it sits on the road to Mosul.
Al-Abadi also recently announced that the country's government forces would cooperate with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to liberate Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh from Daesh militants.
Daesh has committed heinous crimes and threatened all communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and Izadi Kurds, during their advances in Iraq.
Iraqi soldiers, police units, Kurdish forces, Shia fighters and Sunni tribesmen have recently succeeded in driving the terrorists out of some areas in Iraq.
[This story has been edited from the source material.]