U.S. And Iraq Reportedly Restart ISIS Counterterrorism Efforts
Topline: The U.S. and Iraq have reportedly resumed their counterterrorism partnership against ISIS, after operations were suspended following Qassem Soleimani’s killing—even though Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from the country just two weeks ago.
- According to the New York Times, which first reported on the development, cited unnamed American military officials who confirmed that operations had restarted.
- The officials said it was in the U.S. military’s interest to resume counterterrorism efforts quickly so ISIS could not claim a propaganda victory or build momentum in the troops’ absence.
- Both the Times and the Associated Press reported that it was unclear if the Iraqi government approved of the reinstation, since the country’s parliament had voted for U.S. troops to leave following a series of airstrikes, including the one that killed Soleimani.
- Iraq’s parliament, claiming the U.S. had violated its sovereignty with the strikes, voted to oust American service members January 10, with prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi sending a request for their withdrawal to the U.S.
- But Abdul-Mahdi, who is outgoing and overseeing his post in a caretaker capacity, said Wednesday that the next prime minister would be responsible for carrying out the removal of U.S. troops (despite the U.S. refusing to leave).
- ISIS carried out attacks Monday on Iraqi posts along Syria’s border that killed one officer and wounded four others, reported CNN, and that the offensive was mounted during the suspension of anti-ISIS operations.
Crucial quote: “ISIS has begun to reorganize and plan invasions and attacks,” Abdul-Mahdi said in a speech to his cabinet Wednesday.
Big number: 3,000. That’s how many additional U.S. troops were deployed to the Middle East following Soleimani’s killing.
Key background: The reported reinstatement of ISIS counterterrorism efforts is the latest culmination of a series of escalations between the U.S., Iran and Iraq, with Iraq claiming its sovereignty has been violated by the other two countries. The episode began when an Iranian-backed militia killed an American contractor at an Iraqi base. The U.S. responded with air strikes on the militia’s bases, killing at least two dozen of its members. Iraqis angered by the U.S. strikes then stormed the American embassy in Baghdad—leading to President Trump’s decision to target Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport. Since 2014, U.S. and European troops have trained local Iraqi forces to fight ISIS, using the country as their base of operations. Iran had been a key ally to those troops, but that relationship has been deteriorating as the U.S. continues to take a harder line against Iran. In particular, Soleimani had been accused of arming militias across the Middle East that have backed Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, arming Iraqi insurgents and orchestrating attacks on U.S. service members.