The United States ends its combat mission, and the Iraqi army celebrates its 101st anniversary | Military News

Baghdad, Iraq – The Iraqi Armed Forces celebrated their 101st anniversary on Thursday, and at the same time opened a new chapter in the turbulent history of the United States since taking office Completed its combat mission Held in Iraq on December 31, 2021.

Amidst multiple challenges, the military faces the daunting task of defending a conflict-torn country, including preventing continued threats from armed groups.

The Iraqi armed forces were founded in 1921 and have experienced a series of difficult and bloody conflicts in recent decades, such as the Iran-Iraq War in 1980-88, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Gulf War the following year, and the US-led invasion in 2003 , And the most recent fight against ISIL (ISIS).

The Iraqi government originally expected to organize a national march on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary, but it is not clear whether it will continue. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, last year’s centennial event did not take place.

The Iraqi armed forces have close ties with the U.S. military, and the U.S. military was mainly responsible for forming a new Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion.

After the United States withdrew in 2010, following the request of the Iraqi government to help defeat ISIL, it redeployed some of its troops to Iraq in 2014. The United States had previously defeated Iraqi troops in parts of the country to capture cities such as Mosul. .

After the armed group was defeated on the battlefield for more than four years, the United States has now withdrawn all combat forces and turned to serve as an adviser.

Last year, approximately 2,500 American soldiers and another 1,000 coalition soldiers are currently stationed in Iraq. It is not clear how many people will remain in the consultation phase.

Although it seems to have a huge impact and is inevitably compared to recent ones Disastrous withdrawal from AfghanistanSome analysts believe that the withdrawal of US combat forces is unlikely to cause drastic changes in the current security situation in Iraq.

Sam Houston State University professor Zenab Shuk said: “In fact, the U.S. withdrawal is mainly iconic, because the U.S. mission has usually been transformed into a consulting and training role, and the mission of the remaining troops is unlikely to change.” Iraqi politics, told Al Jazeera.

However, threats from armed groups continue to pose challenges to security forces; from rural counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism against ISIL in high-risk areas such as Kirkuk and Diyala, to maintaining effective control over the borders of Syria and Turkey .

For example, in recent months, ISIL has launched several attacks on civilians, federal police and freedom fighters in northern Iraq, mainly in rural areas at night.

Western officials also accused pro-Iranian factions of attacking military bases with American personnel.

However, with the exception of some demonstrations to commemorate the former Iranian general, Baghdad and most other parts of Iraq remained basically at peace. Qassim Soleimani And former paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi Mohandis Assassinated by the United States two years ago.

According to analysts, this is mainly due to the continuous improvement in the efficiency and readiness of the Iraqi armed forces (including paramilitary forces allied with the country) in recent years, because it has led the battle with ISIL.

“Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] Great progress has been made in the changes of CJTF-OIR mission [Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve missions] And the transition of the U.S. Armed Forces to a non-combatant role in Iraq,” Caroline Rose, an analyst at the Institute of Journalism, a think tank in Washington, told Al Jazeera.

Ross cited the quarterly report submitted by the Chief Inspector General to the US Congress as saying that the ISF has strengthened its combat effectiveness, “especially in the fight against the Islamic State.”

Now, according to the latest estimates of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in its 2020 annual global military assessment, the Iraqi armed forces have state-authorized security forces and paramilitary forces, with more than 530,000 active personnel. This number exceeds that according to the data collected by the World Bank. Since the rebuilding of the army in 2014, the number of active personnel has been approximately 200,000, which has doubled.

The United States will also continue to support the Elite Counter-Terrorism Force (CTS), a divisional unit under the Iraqi Secretary of Defense that specifically targets “terrorism” in Iraq.

“Under the narrow circumstances of CTS, U.S. support is undoubtedly still the key to maintaining the service’s unique professionalism and capabilities, albeit in a low-visibility and low-cost manner,” said Michael Knights, a researcher at the Washington Institute in the United States. Say. Has extensively studied Iraq’s military and security, told Al Jazeera.

“Compared with the broader Iraqi security forces, the coalition’s special operations advisory team provides unparalleled support for the compact CTS, including training, administrative and financial procurement support, as well as specialized intelligence and air support.”

However, some analysts say that the disagreement between the national army and paramilitary forces poses challenges.

In addition to the state-authorized army, there is also a Freedom Fighter unit that reports to the northern Kurdish regional government and the paramilitary umbrella organization People’s Mobilization Force (PMF), for which Iran has a significant influence.

In the fight against ISIL, the Freedom Fighter Force and the PMF Force also played a central role.

The former was established in direct response to the former dictator Saddam Hussein’s repressive policies against the Kurds in Iraq, and the latter was quickly established after Shi’ite spiritual leader Ali Sistani issued a religious order calling on Shi’ites to take up arms and resist. Take effect. ISIL.

Although they have made undeniable contributions to the fight against the organization in the past few years, paramilitary organizations are challenging Iraq’s own security.

The border dispute between Baghdad and Erbil has long left a vacuum in “hot spots” such as Kirkuk and Diyala for the use of ISIL. The increase in ISIL attacks in these provinces in recent months attests to this challenge.

At the same time, the growing PMF, which is largely loyal to Iran, launched multiple rounds of attacks against U.S. presence and large-scale protests in 2019. They are accused of supporting targeted assassinations of activists, journalists and dissidents.

The effectiveness of the armed forces in protecting Iraq’s security depends to a certain extent on how the central command strikes a delicate balance with the Peshmerg forces and PMF.

“In addition to reducing the role of the United States and increasing the activities of ISIS, it is worth noting that ISF also suffers from internal autonomy struggles because the People’s Mobilization Force and other militias allied with Iran and their control of checkpoints and highways Has a major impact. and facilities,” Ross said.

Experts said that in addition to its relationship with paramilitary forces, ISF continues to face maintenance, logistics, and intelligence collection challenges without the support of the United States and CJTF-OIR, and continues to rely on partners for air support.

“With the integration of the U.S. military presence in Iraq — more than 8 base transfers in 2020 alone — and the suspension of joint training opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISIS has shown a higher level of operational maturity. This fact is that during the transition of the United States to a consulting role, the combat capability of the ISF is worrying,” Ross told Al Jazeera.