International coalition member France has stood by Iraq in its battle against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and continues to provide training and support to strengthen the combat capabilities of Iraqi forces.
Since the extremist group was driven out of the areas of Iraq it once controlled, France has been supporting Iraqi forces in their efforts to target remaining pockets of ISIS fighters and bolster border security.
French forces also have helped Iraqi forces hunt down ISIS sleeper cells and detect ISIS movements across the border in Syria, Iraqi officials told Diyaruna.
"The participation of the French has been and continues to be significant and exceptional," said Joint Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul.
"They have helped us defeat the terrorist group by targeting its hideouts and gatherings and striking its supply chains and sources of funding," he told Diyaruna, pointing to continued French support with military training.
“France continues to ... build the capacity of our soldiers and upgrade their combat capabilities, as well as strengthening all of our military institutions, particularly the artillery divisions," Rasul said.
”After achieving victory over terrorism, we are now entering a new phase that involves developing our forces," he said. "We want to improve the efficiency of our fighters in terms of physical fitness, as well as improving their capability to use the latest weapons and military systems."
Strengthening the military partnership
Iraq is determined to strengthen its military partnership with France, Rasul said.
“We have a decent level of intelligence collaboration, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the liberation war," he said, noting that the two countries have been working together to collect and share counter-terror intelligence.
"As a result, we have managed to deal fatal blows to several terrorist targets," Rasul said.
"Iraq is actively engaged at a high level of collaboration with the international coalition, including France, and on the strength of intelligence exchanged between the two sides," security expert Saeed al-Jayashi told Diyaruna.
It has been possible to penetrate the most secretive ISIS network and target its active leadership in Syria, which potentially poses a threat to Iraq, he said.
Al-Jayashi stressed the importance of Iraq's relationship with France, noting that “any reinforced collaboration will be in the interest of both countries”.
France has not hesitated to provide assistance to Iraq from day one of the war on ISIS, he added, noting that French fighter jets have hit ISIS targets and the French artillery division was on the front line in several battles, including in the emblematic battle that liberated Mosul from ISIS.
"French assistance did not end there, but continued even after the war ended, as French military consultants are training our soldiers and helping to build an experienced army that can carry out dangerous and complex missions," he said.
Destroying ISIS infrastructure
Iraqi and coalition efforts together have been “effective in destroying the infrastructure of ISIS and its sources of power”, said Khaled Abdul-Illah, who teaches political science at Baghdad University.
“The French intervention was instrumental in halting the terrorist expansion and helped the Iraqi army to retake control and initiate attacks as well as retrieving control of all areas from ISIS," he told Diyaruna.
Iraq fully appreciates the commitment demonstrated by France and other coalition countries and respects the assistance its allies have provided, he said.
“We are looking even further ahead with regard to working with the French and our international partners," Abdul-Illah said.
"We want them to help us rebuild our cities that were destroyed by terrorists and we want to take advantage of their expertise and consulting so we can wipe out the effects of war," he added.
Several French companies now want to enter the Iraqi market as investors and to take part in reconstruction and rehabilitation, he said, adding that "we hope that taking part in reconstruction is at the same level of military support".