Iraqi insurgency (2017–present)
The Iraqi Insurgency (2017–present) is an insurgency that began in late 2017 after multiple defeats of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), causing it to lose its territorial control, by the Iraqi military (largely backed by the United States and other countries conducting airstrikes against ISIS) and allied paramilitary forces (largely backed by Iran).
The insurgency is a direct continuation of the Iraqi Civil War from 2014 to 2017, with mostly Sunni rebel groups continuing armed opposition against the Shia-led Iraqi Government. Along with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), other insurgents fighting the government include a group known as the White Flags which is reportedly composed of former ISIL members and Kurdish rebels and is believed by the government of Iraq to be part of Ansar al-Islam and possibly affiliated with al-Qaeda. The group operates mostly in the Kirkuk Governorate and has used an assortment of guerilla tactics against government forces. Other factions opposed to the Iraqi government include the Iraqi Baath Party currently led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri a former official to Saddam Hussein during his rule in Iraq and has been active in Iraq's conflict since the US-led invasion in 2003 leading multiple factions including the Naqshbandi Army and Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation.
Course of the Insurgency
Since ISIL's loss of Mosul in late 2017 which was declared as Iraq's victory over ISIL and widely seen as an end to the civil war, and declared as such by Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, multiple incidents of violence have occurred being carried out by the conflicting sides, in spite of Iraq's declaration of victory over ISIL the group is widely seen as far from gone and continues to retain a presence throughout Iraq, and still capable of carrying out attacks and skirmishes with pro-government forces. ISIL has been waging a guerrilla war with a strong presence in the governorates of Kirkuk, Diyala, Saladin, and the Sulaymaniyah Governorate, with local forces largely ill-equipped and inexperienced, ISIL has also taken advantage of the areas rough terrain to carry out operations. ISIL has also made a notable presence in the cities of Kirkuk, Hawija and Tuz Khurmato and has carried out attacks at night in rural areas.
ISIL fighters also reportedly move through villages during the day without interference from security forces, and locals have been asked by ISIL to give fighters food and give information on the whereabouts of Iraqi personnel, locals have also stated that ISIL fighters will frequently enter into Mosques and ask for Zakat to fund the insurgency. Among ISIL's operations include assassinations, kidnappings, raids and ambushes.
According to The Pentagon ISIL is still stronger than it was between 2006–2007 when the group declared the Islamic State of Iraq during its incarnation as al-Qaeda in Iraq, citing a UN report which claimed that ISIL still had 20,000–30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq. That claim of strength was simultaneously tempered though, with The Pentagon saying that ISIL had lost all of its territory and fighters were scattered, making them much less of a threat. The Pentagon predicted that ISIL will lose strength because of their dispersion in a way similar to what happened to al-Qaeda, while also warning that ISIL is still in a position to make a comeback.
Following ISIL's defeat they have been greatly weakened and violence in Iraq has been sharply reduced in 2018. Only 95 people lost their lives during the month of May, the lowest figure in 10 years.
Between January and February 2018, Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga clashed with the White Flags around parts of the Kirkuk and Saladin governorates for control of oil fields which the Iraqi government claims the group's priority is. The Iraqi government said in the clashes the composition of the White Flag's fighters are ISIL members and individuals linked to the Kurdish mafia, the government also alleges that the Kurdish Regional Government allowed oil theft to occur in the area while it was under their control and enabled ISIL for their own interests.
In March 2018, in two separate attacks ISIL reportedly killed 10 individuals including a pro-government Sunni tribal Sheikh along with his son and guests at his house in the town of Al-Shirqat south of Mosul, in the other attack ISIL killed 5 individuals from the same family whom were Iraqi Turkmen and Shia at a fake checkpoint set up by the group posing as Iraqi security forces.
On 22 March 2018, at a checkpoint set up by ISIL the group killed six individuals and injured 15 others from the Iraqi Turkmen minority on their way to Erbil from Baghdad between Tuz Khurmato and Daquq to celebrate Nowruz, the attack was condemned by Turkey and Zowaa claimed one of their MPs was present during the attack but managed to escape unharmed.
On 2 April 2018, In an operation around Tuz Khurmato and Kirkuk against ISIL and the White Flags a Popular Mobilization Forces Major General named Ali Khalifa was killed.
In June 2018, The Popular Mobilization Forces took part in a cross-border battle in Syria to assist Pro-Syrian Government forces and militias including Hezbollah and Russian mercenaries against ISIL in their offensive on the border town of Albu Kamal. The Israeli Air Force later targeted the area on 19 June and large concentration of Iranian backed groups. During the same month the Government of Canada announced that it will suspened Canadian support for Peshmerga and work exclusively with the Iraqi government, in a statement a Canadian military official said "We have changed … partners," a Canadian General told reporters about the shift in support "Training with the Peshmerga was ceased when it was no longer of any value in terms of the battle against Da’esh [IS]."
On 11 July 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would lead a NATO mission to Iraq with European allies to send 250 Canadian soldiers to Baghdad, 50 will be doing the actual training while the other 125 will be doing force protection and another 20 will help run Canadian headquarters in Baghdad.
On 4 August 2018, Chairman of the Iraqi Baath Party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri in a statement broadcast on Facebook in commemoration of the anniversary of the Baath Party called on Iraqis to continue fighting the Iraqi government and allied Iranian backed groups calling them Safavids, he also called on Saudi Arabia to intervene against Iran's influence in Iraq and praised the country. And condemned the battle of Mosul and other battles that led up to it and claimed that Haidar al-Abadi had ordered the destruction of the cities of Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah and others.
On 11 August 2018, ISIL launched an attack from the Hamrin Mountains on the village of Albu Juwari north of Baiji, in the assault a militia fighter affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces in the village, in an interview with Iranian Press TV, claimed that in the clashes 5 of his family members were killed by ISIL and a sixth was left critically injured.
On 6 September 2018, mortar fire was reported near the US embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone from a neighborhood controlled by the Popular Mobilization Force's component Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a Shia paramilitary group backed by Iran, the group fired 120mm mortars, no casualties or injuries were reported, the embassy did take security measures in response to the attack.
On 26 September 2018, an Iraqi commander with the Popular Mobilization Force's 21st Brigade survived an ISIL assassination attempt that included the use of a roadside IED in the Mutaibija region of Saladin, while he did survive three of his guard were reported wounded, ISIL reportedly continues to carryout sporadic clashes with its campaign being compared to the one they carried out in 2013 eventually leading to the 2014 civil war.
On 1 October 2018, a roadside bomb planted by ISIL in the Kirkuk Governorate near Hawija killed an Iraqi police officer and wounded two others. On the same day ISIL published photos of a night raid in the village of Daquq, in the southern part of the Kirkuk Governorate, showing fighters burning down the house of a village elder cooperating with the Iraqi government. ISIL also carried out a series of attacks targeting electrical facilities to sabotage the electrical grid to cutoff electricity for the Iraqi military and allied forces around Kirkuk, ISIL fighters also planted explosives around several transmission towers, the destruction of the towers caused several blackouts in Hawija and Kirkuk.
On 3 October 2018, the Government of Germany announced a planned extension of its military involvement in Iraq for one year to combat ISIL but will end air reconnaissance missions by 31 October 2019. On the same day unknown gunmen believed to be ISIL, killed an individual by driving up to them in a car and opening fire, the targeted individual reportedly died on the spot as a result of the gunshot wounds.
On 4 October 2018, an operation against ISIL was started by the Iraqi military along with the military forces of France and the United States under the CJTF-OIR coalition in the Anbar Governorate around the city of Qaim and the Syrian border where ISIL continues to operate and maintain a strong and large presence. During the operation ISIL claimed to thwart an American-led assault near the Syrian border and also claimed to have killed 3 US soldiers and wounded 4 others in the clashes, the US military has not confirmed or denied the claimed losses.
On 5 October 2018, US-led Coalition planes bombed an ISIL position in the village of Kushaf near the Tigris river in the Kirkuk Governorate, reportedly killing 6 ISIL members, on the same day ISIL detonated a roadside bomb killing an oil employee and injuring 11 others in a bus in Baiji in the Saladin Governorate, and in a separate attack in Fallujah in the Anbar Governorate ISIL detonated a car bomb injuring an Iraqi policeman and 3 others. ISIL released a video from Kirkuk, that showed its fighters planting IEDs, as well as carrying out ambushes and raids on Iraqi outposts. The video also claimed that the group has killed and injured more than 927 government forces since 2017 in the Kirkuk region, and in the end video the group executed several individuals in remote areas and assassinated two individuals cooperating with the Iraqi government at their houses.
On 8 October 2018, Iraq's interior minister Qasim al-Araji in a video posted on his Facebook page claimed that an unnamed extremist group is behind the murder of a 22 year-old Iraqi model who won Miss Baghdad in 2015 and was shot while driving her car while she was in Baghdad in September. On the same day ISIL militants shot dead two Iraqi Policemen at a checkpoint near Mosul, and fled the scene afterwards.
On 9 October 2018, 4 Popular Mobilization Forces militia fighters were killed in an attack by ISIL in the Hit district of the Anbar Governorate.
On 10 October 2018, at least 10 Iraqi security forces were killed when ISIL insurgents attacked a gas field on the western part of the Anbar Province.
On 16 October 2018, an Iraqi policeman was killed while two others were injured fighting with ISIL in western Kirkuk. On the same day Iraqi Federal forces detained a Kurdish reporter covering news about strikes in Tuz Khurmato in anniversary of the Iraqi takeover of Kirkuk.
On 20 October 2018, an explosive device went off at a mosque in the Zubeir district of Basra, no group has claimed responsibility nor were any casualties or injuries reported.
On 23 October 2018, a car bomb went off in the Qayyara district of Mosul killing 6 individuals and leaving 30 injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing; however, Iraqi officials have accused ISIL of carrying out the attack.
On 24 October 2018, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that Turkey would support the Iraqi government in reconstruction and in training the Iraqi military as part of a NATO mission saying, "Iraq’s reconstruction is important. We (Turkey) are the most generous country. We pledged $5 billion loan [for Iraq]. Our firms will benefit from this money with investment, trade and by undertaking projects [there]" adding "Now, as NATO, we will train Iraqi security forces".
On 26 October 2018, five individuals were killed in Al-Ba'aj in the Nineveh Governorate west of Mosul after being abducted by ISIL for cooperating with the Iraqi military by gathering information about the group.
On 28 October 2018, South Korea sent a shipment of 6 KAI T-50 Golden Eagle fighter jets, the Iraqi ministry of defense said this was the third shipment of fighters jets provided by South Korea. On the same day the Iraqi military accidentally shelled a village in the Diyala Governorate where ISIL was thought to be present but wasn't, no casualties were reported, this is reportedly the second such incident in the month of October, with the last incident happening days before.
On 29 October 2018, in response to a successful counter-attack by ISIL against the Syrian Democratic Forces along the Iraqi-Syrian border the Iraqi government deployed PMU militiamen along the border to reinforce sensitive positions in fears of a potential ISIL cross-border infiltration. On the same day Italy announced a planned end to military operations in Iraq in support of both the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Government by the spring of 2019.
On 30 October 2018, two Shiite pilgrims were killed and another injured in an ISIL attack on an Arbaeen celebration in the town of Khanaqin in the Diyala Governorate, after the explosion police reportedly attempted to defuse a device.
On 31 October 2018, a man was killed and his son were injured in a suspected ISIL attack near a shrine in the town of Makhmur, Iraq.
On 1 November 2018, a land mine struck a vehicle of a governor near Baiji, two of his bodyguards were injured while the governor escaped unscathed, also that day A bomb targeting a military patrol exploded in West Mosul killing a soldier and injuring at least seven more, ISIL was most likely behind the attack. On the same day clashes occurred between Arab and Kurdish farmers in Daquq due to Arab farmers asking Kurdish farmers to leave the area, while the Kurdish claimed the area was theirs.
On 2 November 2018, ISIL claimed to have killed a French soldier via the Amaq Agency whom was cooperating with Peshmerga in a combined operation in the village of Balkanah in the Tuz Khurmato district of the Kirkuk Governorate, ISIL published the claims in Arabic and French, the French military denied the claim via Twitter. On the same day ISIL began attempts to infiltrate Iraq from Syria in Rabii'a subdistrict 130 kilometers west of Mosul. In the clashes 4 Iraqi soldiers were killed & 2 ISIL fighters were killed near Iraqi border.
On 4 November 2018, a series of bombings struck several different areas in the capital of Iraq, Baghdad, killing at least seven people and injuring an additional 14. ISIL claimed responsibility for the bombings.
On 8 November 2018, a car bomb exploded near a restaurant in the Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least 4 people and injuring 12 according to Iraqi officials. ISIL was most likely behind the attack.
On 9 November 2018, three civilians were killed in an armed attack by ISIL in a village located near southern Mosul.
On 11 November 2018, nine people including eight civilians and one tribal fighter were killed when ISIL attacked a house of a fighter of the Tribal Mobilization Forces near the Al-Karmah area in Iraq.
On 12 November 2018, two people were captured including a policeman and a civilian and then executed by Islamic State militants in a village in the southern Kirkuk Province.
On 15 November 2018, a bomb detonated while a police vehicle was on its way from Mosul to a nearby village leaving 2 civilians dead and a policeman injured. ISIL was most likely behind the attack.
On 19 November 2018, a bomb and shooting attack on a police patrol killed an officer and wounded four others in the area of the Khanaqin. No group claimed responsibility, but ISIL was most likely behind the blast.
On 22 November 2018, a roadside bomb detonated near a bus in a town near Mosul, killing four schoolchildren and injuring seven others. No group claimed responsibility, but the attack was blamed on ISIL. That same day, two paramilitary soldiers were killed and four others wounded when their vehicle ran over a landmine near the Badush Dam. The landmine had been planted by ISIL.
On 14 January 2019, An ISIL attack on a checkpoint northwest of Kirkuk resulted in the death of 1 PMU fighter.
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