5 years ago
Iraqi military officials have had some buyer’s remorse over the U.S. exit, calling for more troops for an extended period of time. The knowledgeable ones know the drill, and they know that Iraq is not ready. Conditions continue to be problematic in Iraq, and AQI appears to be courting Shi’ite gangs for membership.
Shiite gangs are joining the Sunni extremists of al Qa’eda to form new and dangerous alliances that threaten stability in southern Iraq, government officials and community leaders have warned.
A series of deadly attacks last month in once secure areas, including the southern cities of Kut and Basra, caught the Iraqi authorities by surprise and, they say, indicate that al Qa’eda has made contacts with Shiite groups willing to carry out strikes in the region.
The cooperation, driven by a mixture of money, fear and a mutual hatred of Iran, represents a stark reversal. Since the formation of al Qa’eda in the late 1990s, the radical Sunni Muslim group and its affiliates have regularly targeted Shiites, whom they consider heretics. That hostility continued following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the factional fighting that broke out soon thereafter.
There are signs, however, that this longstanding acrimony has given way to the desire of al Qa’eda sympathisers to penetrate Iraq’s Shiite-dominated southern provinces. To that end, they have found willing Shiite allies, according to regional officials.
“It is unfortunate but we understand that some Shia people are involved with and support the work of al Qa’eda,” said Shamel Mansour Ayal, chairman of Wasit provincial council’s security commission, which is headquartered in Kut.
Some might say that this is a sign of desperation, but at what point has AQI not be desperate? That’s not the point. The point is that Iraq needs U.S. troops and they know it, but even if the troops are deployed, they are essentially powerless without renegotiation of the SOFA. Witness the most recent stupidity in a long line of them.
Gone are the days when U.S. soldiers kicked in doors and searched for insurgents and weapons, U.S. officers say, adding that they cannot even enter towns now unless invited and escorted.
However, a tip-off that a suicide bomber from the Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda planned to attack a joint Iraqi-U.S. checkpoint in western Nineveh during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started on Friday, led U.S. troops to take the initiative in a raid last week.
“Being that it is a credible threat specifically against U.S. forces, we kind of have to act,” said Captain Keith Benoit, a squadron commander in the 7th Cavalry Regiment, at the checkpoint a few hours before the raid.
The mission was planned by U.S. forces but it was to be carried out by the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga security forces, while U.S. soldiers stood about 100 meters away, said Benoit.
“If we were to capture these folks alive tonight, I have a specific interest in this … so I would probably join in the questioning, but there is no unilateral questioning by U.S. forces any more,” he said.
Then there is no point in U.S. forces being deployed there. There are no kinetic operations, and the patrols and questioning necessary to develop atmospherics and good intelligence networks are non-existent. Bring the troops home now or renegotiate the SOFA.