Joint US-Iraqi military operations against ISIS resume
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US military has resumed joint operations with Iraqi Security Forces against the so-called Islamic State, The New York Times reported late on Wednesday.
It is also working to resume its training of Iraqi forces, the Associated Press added.
The US suspended its military activities in Iraq on Jan. 5. The suspension followed escalating hostilities with Iran that began with attacks by Iranian-backed militias on Iraqi military bases hosting US troops, as well as on the US embassy in Baghdad.
Those hostilities culminated in the Jan. 3 assassination of Qasim Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). That prompted the US to suspend military operations to focus on force protection, in anticipation of major retaliation—which, indeed, came on Jan. 8 in the form of Iranian ballistic missile strikes, which primarily targeted Al-Assad airbase in western Iraq.
Also on Wednesday, Iraqi media broadcast remarks made on Tuesday by caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, who informed his cabinet that he would not press to expel US troops—despite a parliamentary vote to that effect. Rather, he would leave the issue to his successor, who has yet to be named.
Abdul Mahdi also warned the cabinet that the Islamic State “has begun to reorganize and plan invasions and attacks.”
The Re-emergence of the Islamic State
On Monday, Jordan’s King Hussein also warned of the terrorist organization’s re-emergence, shortly before leaving for a trip to Europe. He, thus, joined Kurdish leaders, who have long made that very point, as they have called for continued military operations against the terrorist group.
The US decision to resume operations against the Islamic State is driven by concern “to blunt any momentum the group might have and to stifle any propaganda victory it might claim” with the suspension of military activities, the Times reported.
Indeed, the Islamic State seems to have already been emboldened by the recent tensions between the US and Iran. It has launched sporadic attacks in previously liberated areas and even in places it never controlled.
Although US President Donald Trump would, almost certainly, welcome the opportunity to declare victory in Iraq and withdraw US forces, as he has done to a significant extent in Syria, the Iraqi military probably could not successfully fight the Islamic State on its own.
Despite the Jan. 5 vote in Iraq’s parliament to expel US forces, “some Iraqi security officials have opposed the idea, saying they were needed to help fight the remnants of the Islamic State and prevent its resurgence,” the Times reported, “as well as to support coalition troops from other countries.”
Two days after the parliamentary vote, Masoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and formerly long-time president of the Kurdistan Region, warned that Iraq was “faced with a critical and risky situation,” as he called on all sides to “seek a logical and rational approach to the issues at hand and not to base their decision on emotions and political opportunism.”
At its height, in the summer of 2014, the Islamic State controlled nearly one-third of Iraq, threatening even Baghdad.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany