Is ISIS Regrouping in Iraq?
As we read about all the victories over ISIS in Syria, the missing Abu Al-Baghdadi, all the military strikes, and ISIS fighters being marched out of places by the SDF, there are those who see ISIS regrouping in Iraq.
Please remember one thing: Abu al-Baghdadi’s name means one from Baghdad. That’s Baghdad, Iraq. ISIS fighters in Syria are reportedly whining about not being able to find their leader, and feel that he has deserted them. Not that it will matter much.
“Removing Baghdadi will not affect the group’s tactics. He was like a CEO who is so incompetent that his removal would have no effect on the group’s violent performance.” Max Abrahms
So let’s go to the news today: According to Fox, the “last vestige” of ISIS fighters have been removed from the sliver of land that ISIS still retained in Syria near Baghouz. But according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a resurgence of the violent group is highly possible… in Iraq.
ISIS’s post-Caliphate insurgency in Iraq is accelerating faster than efforts to prevent it by the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition. ISIS is re-establishing capable insurgent networks in multiple historical strongholds and linking them together, setting the conditions for future offensive operations against the Government of Iraq. The U.S. and its partners should not view the current relative security in Baghdad as confirmation of the defeat of ISIS. The U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition’s strategy to enable Iraq to “independently manage” an insurgency through intelligence support and other building partner capacity efforts will likely fail to prevent ISIS from regaining momentum based on its current trajectory in Iraq.
The ISW gives 9 points of resurgence: Since 2017, they have established an strengthened a “durable support zone” near Hawija in Kirkuk Province, which is a region of primarily Sunni Muslims who are sympathetic to ISIS.
The Diyala River Valley is another area where the ISW says they have established a series of “safe houses” in the Hamrin mountains.
Buhriz Subdistrict was “almost under the control of ISIS” by February 2019, according to an anonymous security source…A member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives called on the Government of Iraq to deploy additional troops to prevent a “serious security deterioration” in Diyala Province on February 28, 2019… ISIS will likely leverage its presence in Buhriz to attack both south into Baghdad and north into Baqubah, from which it could ultimately project force farther along the DRV and connect with its support zones in Northern Diyala Province. ISW
The Institute claims that they are building support zones north of Baghdad in the “Baghdad Belts.” They have freedom of movement in the Jazeera Desert which allows them movement between Anbar Province and Salah Al-Din Province. ISW says they have also created a safe zone west of Mosul, and are also creating a network in the city.
Keep in mind that many of these areas were hard fought with loss of lives, many of whom were Americans. The names should be familiar to our troops: Anbar Province is one, the capital of which is Ramadi.
The conditions for vicious killers like ISIS and Al-Qaeda still exist in both Syria and Iraq. That won’t go away anytime soon. It’s an ideology of death and hate.
As the sun begins to set in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq, U.S. Marines from the Hawaii-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment patrol through back alleys in Haqlaniyah, Iraq, June, 1, 2006. The Marines were searching for insurgents and contraband in the city of 30,000, which is nestled along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad. Marines and Iraqi soldiers frequently patrol Haqlaniyah, where arguably some of the fiercest violence by insurgents against Coalition Forces occurs. Since their arrival more than two months ago, the Marines have engaged insurgents frequently. Most recently, the Marines fought insurgents hiding in an abandoned hotel, which was later bombed by U.S. military aircraft. Photo by Sgt Roe F Seigle, USMC