Iraq News

Iraqi victories demonstrate army's transformation

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

Soldiers from the Iraqi army's 6th Infantry Division receive training at the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Soldiers from the Iraqi army's 6th Infantry Division receive training at the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

The Iraqi army has come a long way since 2014, when the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) rolled into Iraq and occupied swathes of the country, military officials tell Diyaruna.

Its soldiers are better trained and equipped, their morale has soared as they rack up victories, and they now have years of hard-won experience under their belts from battling the group in urban areas and in rugged, rural terrain.

As armoured vehicles headed for the Kirkuk province city of al-Hawija on August 21st, to take on ISIS in one of its last strongholds in Iraq, other units were moving into the desert to liberate the city of Anah in western Anbar province.

A string of victories in both operations -- including the capture of Akashat in the Anbar desert and al-Sharqat in Salaheddine -- demonstrates the army's ability to manage simultaneous battles on more than one front.

Enhanced combat capabilities

This upgrade in combat capability and performance can be attributed to several factors, political analyst Jassim Hanoun told Diyaruna.

Foremost among them is an increased focus on "fourth generation warfare", which seeks to eradicate non-state combatants such as terror gangs, he said.

Iraqi forces have worked to disband mobile checkpoints set up by ISIS and to block suicide attacks staged by its fighters on foot or in vehicles, he said.

They also have identified enclaves of ISIS sympathisers and have destroyed the group's safe havens -- places where fighters would hide and regroup before staging future attacks.

"Iraqi forces today are well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of ISIS, as the group's methods have become clear, in terms of holding the land and controlling resources," Hanoun said.

The group's loss of land following Iraqi victories has degraded its fighting capability, he said, noting that ISIS has lost bomb-making facilities, communication centres and command headquarters.

"They also lost a large portion of their human resources, including field commanders, terrorists and suicide bombers," he said.

Deep expertise and training

The Iraqi army has enhanced its combat performance as a direct result of fighting ISIS over the past years, said Iraqi MP Mohammed al-Karbouli, who serves on the parliamentary security committee.

Military commanders have gained deep expertise from these battles, which have translated into an increasing number of victories on the ground, he said.

Since its low point in 2014, the Iraqi army has become stronger, al-Karbouli said, and now has a forceful presence, as demonstrated by its ability to fight battles on three fronts -- al-Sharqat, al-Hawija and Anah.

But despite its high morale and improved capabilities, the Iraqi army remains in need of international support in the areas of armament and training, said Anbar provincial council member Naeem al-Koud.

This support must continue even after ISIS is defeated, he told Diyaruna.

"The Iraqi army needs logistical support and support with intelligence and advanced intelligence equipment, surveillance cameras and drones that can only be obtained from global military sources or the coalition forces," he said.

He also stressed the need to establish military academies in Iraq, where both new recruits and seasoned soldiers can keep abreast of advancements in military sciences.

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