ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish official has warned that increased Islamic State activity may lead to the revival of the terrorist group, especially in disputed territories, where a security vacuum is being left unchecked.
General Sirwan Barzani, a Peshmerga Commander at the Gwer-Makhmour front line, told Kurdistan 24 that areas “under the control of Iraqi forces don’t have enough of a presence to prevent ISIS from accessing the Qarachukh mountain.” Peshmerga forces control parts of the disputed Makhmour region, up to the edge of Qarachukh Mountain.
General Barzani voiced his concerns the terrorist organization was exploiting the security void between Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) controlled areas, urging the International coalition against the Islamic State to pressure Iraq to send more troops.
The Kurdish official also said that “according to our intel, since early September, the security void has allowed foreign ISIS fighters to join the local sleeper cells.” He explained that, due to the multi-party military presence in Syria, remaining Islamic State fighters are crossing the border and joining local groups in Iraq.
Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for the US-led Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Resolve (CJTF-OIR) in Qarachukh Mountain, also spoke to Kurdistan 24, stating that recent intel indicated the group was notably “more active in the foothills of the mountain and Nineveh plains, smuggling weapons, equipment to try to create a place where they can attack again.”
“The Coalition along with (ISF) and Peshmerga partners are working around the clock to stop ISIS from being able to rise again,” said Col. Caggins, adding the coalition is looking to establish cooperation between the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Peshmerga to “put the squeeze on ISIS.”
Over two years passed since Iraq proclaimed a military victory over the Islamic State, yet the terror group’s activities continue in several parts of the country. Its attacks are consistently concentrated in the disputed territories where the group exploits a security vacuum once filled by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, especially in rural areas.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Wladimir van Wilgenburg)