US-led Coalition suspends anti-ISIS operations

“We are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops.”

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – On Sunday, the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State announced that it was suspending operations against the terrorist group to focus on ensuring the security of the military bases in Iraq from which its troops operate.

The threat to those bases has dramatically increased following Friday’s assassination of Qasim Soleimani, head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iraqi militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

Muhandis was a long-time ally of Iran, going back to the 1980s and the war with Iraq that followed that country’s 1979 revolution. In 1983, the US and French embassies in Kuwait were bombed, as part of Iran’s campaign against countries aligned with Iraq. A Kuwaiti court subsequently sentenced Muhandis to death in absentia for his role in the attack.

“Our first priority is protecting all Coalition personnel committed to the defeat of Da’esh,” a statement issued on Sunday by the Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), stated.

“Repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hizbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a US civilian,” it said. Muhandis, in addition to his post as deputy head of the PMF, also led Kata’ib Hizbollah.

“As a result,” the CJTF-OIR statement affirmed, “we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops.”

“This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Da’esh,” it continued, and “we have paused these activities, subject to continuous review.”

NATO conducts a separate training mission of Iraqi forces, and on Saturday, it announced that it was suspending that training.

Read More: NATO suspends training in Iraq following Qasim Soleimani killing: spokesperson

Another complicating factor is the vote of the Iraqi parliament late on Sunday, when it approved a draft bill, calling for an end to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

Kurdish and Sunni parliamentarians boycotted the extraordinary session of Iraq’s Council of Representatives. However, the draft measure was approved by the Council’s Shia members, who constitute a majority in the parliament and Iraq as a whole.

A formal vote on the bill is scheduled for next Saturday.

Read more: Iraqi parliament approves draft bill to end US troop presence in Iraq

Sunday’s CJTF-OIR statement affirmed that the Coalition continued to work in concert with the Iraqi government, even as it reminded the Baghdad government why US forces were in Iraq in the first place.

“We remain resolute as partners of the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS,” it said. “We remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Da’esh.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany