A major military operation has begun by the Iraqi government to hunt down and finish off the last remnants of the Islamic State in the Kirkuk region. Elements of air force and Iraqi armored divisions were deployed alongside Iranian-funded para military Hashd Al-Shabi units. The PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces) were named specifically in the tasking of the leg work for the operation.
Leading the PMF effort is a commander by the name of Karim Nuri who claims the operation is in response to recent attacks by the crippled groups and to clear the remaining contested areas. The 9th Armored Division, of the Iraqi Army, will specifically be simultaneously clearing/maintaining the areas in and around Hawija according to the Joint Operations Command.
Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman, Ali Husseini, reported that the operation has started in an effort to eliminate Islamic State sleeper cells. He told reporters that the operation will be successful by utilizing the Air Force initially to great extent followed by the thorough progression of ground forces who will secure the area thereafter.
Prior to these events, on December 27, 2017 the deputy commander of strategy and support, UK Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, of the United States led coalition stated that they were “keenly aware of multiple ISIS terrorists” in regards to the Hawija territories and Hamrin Mountains. So this operation was a long time coming but it remains to be seen if it will be successful when the dust settles.
These mop-up operations are occurring with very little surprise at this stage in the conflict. It was always known there would be survivors and fractured, but operational, terrorist cells still in the fight after the Islamic State’s main strongholds, Raqqa and Mosul, fell. This type of insurgency is exactly what happens to any aggressive, but foreign-occupied, collective.
The same end result was seen in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; now more than likely we will be seeing it associated with Operation Inherent Resolve. Fortunately the U.S. is not the occupier this time, the region’s previous owners are. How the Islamic State adapts and mobilizes because of this development still remains to be seen, but I think we can gather some semblance of an idea. History often repeats itself in one form or another and the Middle East is a poster child for that mantra if there ever was one.
Featured image of Hashd al-Shaabi courtesy of Wikipedia