US suspends Iraqi forces training, ISIS operations over force protection concerns


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The US-led coalition against Islamic State has suspended training of Iraqi forces and joined in operations against militants due to a barrage of attacks on US bases in recent weeks which killed a civilian contractor and injured US and Iraqi forces, CJTF-OIR said in a statement on Sunday.

Iraqi bases housing coalition forces came under rocket fire late January 4, the 13th such attack in the past two months.

“As a result, we are now fully committed to protecting Iraqi bases hosting coalition troops. This has limited our ability to conduct training with partners and support their operations against Daesh and we have therefore suspended these activities, subject to continuous review, ”said the January 5 statement, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The statement blamed the attacks on Kataib Hezbollah, a Hashd al-Shaabi militia group whose commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed in a US airstrike on Friday.

Despite declaring the defeat of what US officials call the Islamic State’s “territorial caliphate,” earlier this year, the group has sleeper cells all over Iraq and has been shown to be capable of attacking people. Iraqi civilian and military targets.

A coalition source told the Defense Post that the priority was force protection and that the United States would conduct operations against ISIS with its partners in Iraq and Syria if the militants posed a threat to the bases .

Rockets fired at the ultra-secure Baghdad Green Zone fell near coalition facilities at around 7.45 p.m. Saturday. Five minutes later, rockets landed near Balad Air Base, about 80 km (50 miles) to the north. The Baghdad attack hurt Iraqi civilians.

The future of the coalition in Iraq

The future of US counter-ISIS operations in Iraq is in jeopardy after the drone strike that killed Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. After Acting Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi promised to expel Americans from the country, Iraqi lawmakers voted on Sunday to end a security deal with the United States and could force American forces to withdraw.

Kurdish and Sunni MPs boycotted the vote, and it is uncertain when the Iraqi government will pass the resolution, which calls on it to end the presence of foreign forces on Iraqi soil and ban the use of its “Land, airspace or water for any reason.” US operations against ISIS in Iraq are being conducted under a 2014 agreement with the former government.

NATO had previously announced that it would also suspend the training of Iraqi forces following the strike that killed Muhandis and Soleimani.

The Pentagon, not the Coalition, was responsible for the strike, as well as the December 29 strikes against Kataib Hezbollah after IRGC-backed militia allegedly attacked the K1 base near Kirkuk two days earlier, killing a civilian contractor and injuring Iraqi security forces and US military personnel.

There are approximately 5,000 US troops in Iraq and an additional 4,000 forces are expected to be deployed to the region following a New Year’s attack on the US embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for the December 29 strikes.

It is not known whether the Coalition will also halt the training of Peshmerga forces in the more stable self-governing Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The United States is not part of the multinational Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, currently led by Italy, which was integrated into Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve last year.

Almost 50,000 peshmerga have been trained by the KTCC so far, but European coalition staff have expressed doubts that the force will be ready in time for a planned transition to a ‘mentoring’ role later. this year that would see them take charge of their own security.


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