The U.S. inspector generals released the latest quarterly report on Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. It noted continued short comings in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that have existed for years. On the other hand, the Islamic State is currently disjointed and unable to carry out large operations. It has plenty of opportunity to make a comeback however due to the problems with the government’s forces.
The Iraqi forces cannot hold areas. The report said that the ISF is not large enough to maintain security in the country’s deserts and cleared areas such as in Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahaddin. The border with Syria for example is not fully secured allowing IS to move back and forth between the two countries. It has also not been able to penetrate the Islamic State’s support zones in Diyala and Salahaddin. Iraq’s rural, desert and mountain areas have always been open areas for the insurgency even during the U.S. occupation. The government has tried to keep up a steady pace of sweeps through these places, but they provide no long term solutions. The militants simply leave and then come back when the operation is over, something that they’ve done since 2003. That leaves many of these areas with just checkpoints or with no presence at all.
The government’s forces look to the Coalition too much. The ISF won’t carry out major operations without Coalition support, and calls on Coalition air cover instead of its own. These are issues that have plagued the ISF for years. The U.S. has trained and supplied many of these units, and is a superpower so it is only natural that the ISF would turn to them for help. This is especially true because many of those capabilities such as intelligence are lacking within the Iraqi forces as noted in previous U.S. reports.
The Islamic State is currently at a nadir. The report stated that IS is disjointed, unable to garner public support and incapable of large attacks. Right now it is only carrying out small scale attacks. At the same time, it has made a return to Baghdad which was noted in recent Musings On Iraq security reports. IS activity was up in Diyala and southeastern Ninewa, and down in Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahaddin during this quarter. The group is relegated to the rural areas however, and has not been able to move back into any of the major cities. The problem for Iraq is that the inability of the security forces to clear and hold rural, desert and mountainous regions means the insurgents largely have free reign to regroup there. This looks like it will be a much slower process than the last rebuilding effort after the Surge, but still poses a serious long term security threat to the country.
Lead Inspector General Report to the United States Congress, “Operation Inherent Resolve, 7/1/19-10/25/19,” 11/20/19