US Fails to Muster Local Iraqi Forces to Fight ISIS
Recent reports coming mostly from Washington claim that ISIS has been weakened and has withdrawn from territories in Syria and Iraq, as it continues to suffer major losses in fighters and funds. If those reports are true, they raise the question of why the 67-member coalition formed by US President Barack Obama is not taking advantage of this situation to launch a decisive attack that will finish off the terrorist organization once and for all.
The commanders of the US and local forces on the ground, including some who have been taking part in secret discussions during the last two weeks in Washington regarding the ISIS war, have several answers:
1. Some of the local commanders, mostly of Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, surprisingly say that the Obama administration refuses to give the order to destroy the terrorist organization. One Kurdish commander said this week: “ISIS? It’s like a body in a field where nobody is around to chop it up.” Another commander said the US is not supplying the forces on the ground with the weapons needed for a total victory.
2. DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources point out that although these claims are justified, they reflect the narrow viewpoint of local forces who will be fighting ISIS, and also show that these forces are concealing the strategic goals they hope to achieve with US military aid. These goals are not in line with Washington’s strategic plans and even contradict them.
In other words, if the Obama administration had envisioned that local Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish forces would launch a large-scale attack on ISIS and bring about its downfall, it is now clear that such an idea was a naïve understanding of the situation on the ground. In reality, there is no local military force capable of defeating ISIS and capturing its two de facto capitals, Mosul in northern Iraq and Raqqa in northern Syria.
3. It has become clear that Iraqi Shiites, supported by Iran, are more intent on seizing power in Baghdad than on capturing Mosul and uprooting ISIS. The government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi collapsed this week after a mob of Shiite demonstrators, all supporters of Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, stormed into the Green Zone and occupied government buildings and the parliament on April 30.
The developments have also proven that even though the US maintains 10,000 troops in Iraq and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support the war effort in the country, there is no hope for the Iraqi army to be able to launch a campaign against ISIS in the foreseeable future. The army and its commanders are too busy dealing with the country’s internal problems.
4. The Obama administration’s idea that it was possible to fight ISIS using pro-Iranian local armies, such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Badr Brigades, has been repudiated in Washington. Not only are these armies preparing to take part in internal power struggles, but the contacts between their commanders and senior US officers in Iraq have reached a dead end during the last few days.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that the commander of the Badr Brigades, Hadi Al-Amiri, and PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis told American officers they were willing to be part of artillery forces supporting an attack by the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces on Mosul. They also pledged that their forces would not enter the city when it falls. The main problem with their offers was that neither the American commanders in Iraq nor officials in Washington believe that the pro-Iranian commanders will keep such promises.