As the U.S. continues its consolidation efforts and defense reinforcement at its two primary bases in Iraq, one located in Assad Air Base the other in Erbil, a trend of increased ISIS attacks can't be dismissed.
In the past three weeks we have seen a string of increasing ISIS attacks against both U.S.-friendly Iraq forces, aka Iraq Security Forces (ISF), and against the pro-Iranian paramilitary group, Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
In addition to these increased attacks by ISIS on ISF and PMF groups, ISIS attacks has targeted oil fields and international organizations.
One such attack was on April 9, 2020.
The strike targeted U.S. company Haliburton in the Zubair Oilfield outside Basrah.
ISIS fired five rockets into the Burjesia area.
Another 11 rockets unfired — still in their launchers.
A second attack occurred on April 17, 2020.
ISIS targeted a Chinese oil company in the eastern suburbs of Baghdad.
This time, ISIS fired two missiles at the oil company, resulting in halted production.
This ISIS attack has served to further strain Iraq’s economy, as the oil dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia continues to drive crude oil prices significantly downward.
These series of ISIS attacks show an attempted resurgence by ISIS in those areas where it still maintains terror cells.
These cells were far less active and incapable of carrying out strings of attacks when the U.S. and coalition forces were present in multiple forward operating bases (FOB), supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Iranian government and its pro-Iranian paramilitary groups continued attacks against bases with known a U.S. presence. These attacks resulted in more defensive and quick response coordination efforts to consolidate our nearly 5,000 troops — and equipment.
This U.S. coalition force consolidation was not only a strategic movement, but also the execution of our handover plan to assist Iraq forces in becoming more independent.
The U.S. can and should use this opportunity to assess manpower, equipment, and timeline needs for any counter-terrorism responses required in Iraq.
Additionally, the U.S. should continue to deploy Iraq Patriot Missile Defense Systems.
These have the ability to counter any further rocket or missile attacks on its bases by either ISIS — or by Iranian forces, inside or outside Iraq.
The increased activity by ISIS demonstrates its belief that without U.S. and coalition forces supporting ISF groups in Iraq, ISIS can revive and strengthen its remaining cells once again to disrupt a would-be peaceful and U.S.-friendly Iraq.
The timeline below is of ISIS attacks, and demonstrates that ISIS is taking advantage of U.S. coalition force handover, as well as Iraqi security consolidation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The net result has been to relieve pressure on ISIS cells in Iraq:
- April 4, 2020 —Iraqi soldiers killed in military patrol near town of Sarkaran in the Dibis District;
- April 9, 2020 — ISIS targets coalition MRAP being transported 14km south of Tikrit;
- April 11, 2020 — ISIS raid on Tarmiyah 15km Northwest of Taji Air Base;
- April 12, 2020 — ISIS ambush in Tuz Khurmatu District killing three Hashd al-Shaabi forces and injuring five more;
- April 13th, 2020 — Explosion in Graziz Sinjar area killing two;
- April 14th, 2020 — ISIS attack in Kojo District, Sulaymaniyah Govenorate kills two Peshmerga soldiers;
- April 15th, 2020 — Improvised Explosive Device (IED) targeting Brigadier General, Mohammed Taher (Oil Police Chief) near Hawija.
This increase in attacks by ISIS on security forces, and impact on oil revenue, clearly demonstrates that Iraq still needs U.S. and coalition presence in Iraq.
Along with the increase in ISIS attacks, Turkish aggression in the Kurdish region of Iraq appears to have increased. Turkish forces recently launched an airstrike near Makhmour on a refugee camp resulting in two women and one man being killed.
Again, further demonstrating the tremendous impact and role that coalition forces play in the stability of Iraq.
The U.S. military has continued to support Iraq forces through training, equipment, and air support in its commitment to the Iraqi government — to defeat terrorism and help improve security.
While U.S. consolidation was necessary to protect our forces, and in line with our plans to handover forward operating bases once Iraq forces achieved key milestones, it’s hard to ignore the significant increase in attacks and the attempts of ISIS to reassert itself in Iraq since the time coalition troops left outposts in that country.
Even as we continue to assist our Iraqi friends in regaining their independence during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, while also dealing with Iranian aggression from the east and Turkish aggression from the north, we can't ignore the trend of increased ISIS attacks in Iraq.
Cory Mills is a highly decorated combat veteran with experience in multiple theaters of operation. He is Founder and CEO of PACEM Solutions International and PACEM Defense LLC, which acquired AMTEC Less Lethal Systems, Inc., in 2018. For most of his adult life, Cory Mills has honorably served U.S. military, diplomatic, and USAID missions. After Mr. Mills was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, he served as a subcontractor for the U.S. State Department from 2005-2010. During this time, he worked with thousands of diplomatic missions in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and the U.S. Consul in Erbil. In 2016, the Republic of Iraq credited PACEM with assisting operations which led to the raising of Iraq’s flag at the Fallujah Governor’s Office for the first time in nearly three years. Prior to this, ISIS was flying the flag of the Caliph in Fallujah. Read Cory Mill's Reports — More Here.
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