US remains 'committed' to preventing ISIS resurgence in Iraq

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The US says that it remains “committed” to supporting Iraq to help prevent an ISIS resurgence, despite escalating tensions with Iran.

Although the Iraqi government declared victory over the terror group in December 2017 and the US-led coalition and its allies seized the group’s last swath of territory in Syria last March, ISIS continues to carry out attacks in both countries.

In a statement given to The National, a state department official who declined to be named said that the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS "remains committed, along with Iraqi Security Forces, to our shared goal of defeating ISIS remnants”.

“The Coalition continues to have advisers embedded in Iraqi operations centres in several provinces and has regular, reoccurring meetings with [the Iraqi security forces], from the commanding general down through battalion-level advisers,” the official said.

While ISIS overall remains a concern in Iraq, the coalition has not seen a rise in activity over the past month, the official said.

“The US has made clear the importance of the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Iraq,” said the official

“We have fought side by side with Iraq against ISIS to liberate 100 per cent of ISIS’s territorial control, enable critical stabilisation initiatives, and facilitate the return of millions of Iraqis to their homes.”

In 2014, ISIS held territory that was nearly the size of the UK.

Washington remains “committed to working hand-in-hand with the government of Iraq to consolidate these gains and prevent a resurgence,” said the official.

The reiteration of support comes weeks after the US launched a drone strike near Baghdad airport that killed Iranian major general Qassem Suliemani

After the US strike killed General Suliemani, Iraq’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops. Kurdish and Sunni politicians boycotted the vote.

The US has around 5,200 troops stationed in various bases around the country to help security forces fight ISIS. Their primary concern is to train Iraqi forces.

The official said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “agrees there needs to be a conversation between the US and Iraq, not just regarding security, but also our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership".

Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said earlier this month that the withdrawal of US troop could leave the country vulnerable to an ISIS resurgence.

“If we leave Iraq, that will just increase further the running room for Iran and Shiite militia groups and also the vacuum that we’ll see groups like ISIS fill, and we’ll be right back to where we were,” Mr McGurk said on US news channel MSNBC. “That would be a disaster."

The German military said on Sunday it has resumed its operations in northern Iraq after they were suspended following the killing of Suliemani. The Bundeswehr has about 90 soldiers in the northern city of Erbil.

The Global Coalition against ISIS was formed in September 2014 and has 81 members that work to dismantle its networks, economic infrastructure and countering the group’s propaganda.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), arrives at Iraq's holy city of Najaf on November 11, 2019. (Photo by Haidar HAMDANI / AFP)

A photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office, shows Iraqi acting Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi meeting with the U.N. special representative to Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert at the prime minister's office, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office, via AP)

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, UN Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), adjusts her headscarf during a press conference following a meeting with Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq's holy city of Najaf on November 11, 2019. (Photo by Haidar HAMDANI / AFP)

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, head of the United Nations Iraq mission (UNAMI),speaks to AFP in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on November 13, 2019. - Iraqi officials must ramp up their response to mass demonstrations demanding an overhaul of the political system, Hennis-Plasschaert told AFP in an exclusive interview today. (Photo by Ali CHOUKEIR / AFP)

Updated: January 26, 2020 07:43 PM

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