This May Be Iraq’s Next Terrible Insurgency

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

The U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Force’s battle for the city of Mosul likely won’t be the end of fighting in Iraq, the Institute for the Study of War warns in a stark new assessment.

Former President Barack Obama’s strategy in Iraq focused on bolstering the Iraqi Security Forces taking territory away from the Islamic State. The strategy did little to address the grievances of Iraq’s Sunni population, the problem which gave rise to ISIS in the first place. ISW’s assessment declares that “the U.S.-backed Coalition has been focused only on eliminating ISIS, not other insurgent groups or the conditions that grow them.”

America’s top general in Iraq estimates the fight for Mosul will wrap up in approximately 6 months, leaving the Trump administration to ensure the country does not again plunge into chaos.

“Early indicators suggest that a post-ISIS Sunni insurgency may be forming in Iraq and al Qaeda (AQ) is trying to gain traction within it,” ISW’s warning update elaborates. The assessment continues that “political conditions therefore permit an insurgency to take root.” 

“In parts of Iraq recaptured from the militants where I’ve traveled, signs of any central authority are nonexistent,” wrote Ramzy Mardini of the Atlantic Council, warning against the Obama administration’s approach with ISIS in an October op-ed for The New York Times. “Instead, what has emerged from the conflict is a complex patchwork of ethnic, tribal and religious militias that claim fief over particular territories,” he continued.

These ethnic, tribal, and religious militias represent a complex network of power in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi is reportedly beset with political problems, and beholden to a pro-Iranian wing of a Shiite political bloc. Several high-level ministerial positions were vacated by this bloc, and isolation of the Sunni population continues to impact the country. Increased levels of sectarian tensions increase the ability of insurgents to capitalize on social conditions.

The conditions for maintaining governance and preventing the rise of another ISIS-like element, or worse yet, the possibility of multiple ISIS-like elements, are simply not present, Mardini argued before the operation on Mosul began.

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