Security

Coalition helps Iraq sustain anti-ISIS fight: officials

By Hassan al-Obaidi in Baghdad

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Iraqi soldiers and a US army soldier serving as part of the international coalition against ISIS, walk around at the K1 Air Base northwest of Kirkuk on March 29th. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Air support provided by the international coalition over the past few months has been essential to the success of Iraqi military operations to rout the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Iraqi military officials and analysts said.

As the country grapples with a financial crisis, coalition support for the Iraqi military has allowed the fight against ISIS to continue uninterrupted, they said.

In July, Iraq's Joint Operations Command announced raids, in co-ordination with the international coalition, on pockets of ISIS remnants in Beiji Island and Salaheddine province.

Additional operations were carried out in Makhmour and Qara Jogh mountain in western Ninawa, and in the Hamreen Hills in western Anbar.

A large number of ISIS remnants were killed in these raids, tunnels and hideouts were destroyed, and weapons were confiscated.

Coalition air cover and logistical support has helped Iraqi forces achieve significant gains against ISIS in the past few months, Joint Operations Command spokesman Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.

This has supported the Iraqi army and other security divisions during the ongoing "Heroes of Iraq" military campaign.

Coalition has stepped in

While the financial crisis threatened funding allocated for military operations targeting ISIS, the coalition stepped up to "bear this cost on behalf of Iraqis", said a military official from the northern Ninawa Operations Command.

By providing air cover to Iraqi forces, the coalition has saved the government millions of dollars per week, the military official told Diyaruna.

Iraqi forces pursuing ISIS remnants hiding in areas such as Zammar, Makhmour, Qara Jogh (in Makhmour district), Horan and the Hamreen Hills operate in difficult terrain and require protection, he said.

The international coalition has helped minimise loss of life among Iraqi soldiers, said military expert Ahmed Hussain al-Khafaji, who is a member of the Iraqi Veterans Association.

The financial crisis forced Iraq to scale back its counter-ISIS operations, he told Diyaruna, but the coalition has stepped in to support sorties carried out by Iraqi aircraft using helicopters or fighter jets and by helping to cover expenses.

These sorties can cost $250,000 per day, al-Khafaji noted, even without factoring in the cost of ammunition and missiles.

Backing from international coalition warplanes "significantly reduces the duration of the operations and military missions", he said.

He noted that the US Air Force operating as part of the international coalition "did not take part in bombing ISIS sites, but assisted in monitoring terrorist activity on the Syria border and supplied Iraq with important satellite imagery".

Iranian propaganda fails

Iranian propaganda outlets in Iraq that serve the interests of Iran-backed Iraqi militias have "failed in undermining the role of the international coalition in Iraq", said researcher Ahmed al-Janabi of Alnahrain Centre for Studies.

"The participation of the international coalition in the Iraqi army’s military operations has become pivotal," he told Diyaruna.

International coalition forces have helped Iraq to "close security gaps and analyse data from air surveillance, secure the border with Syria, and monitor the movement of ISIS elements", al-Janabi said.

The widespread consensus among Iraqis is that Iraq’s partnership with the international coalition countries "brings security and stability, which runs counter to the propaganda that the militias have been peddling", he said.

In contrast, he said, militias allied with Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Esmail Qaani, "can achieve very little" and merely serve to threaten the security and stability of Iraq.

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