The twin suicide explosion in Baghdad, claimed by Islamic State groups, exposed gaps within Iraqi security forces and was weakened by Covid-19 pandemics, rival armed groups, and political tensions.
At least 32 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in a double-tap suicide bombing targeting a commercial district in Baghdad on Thursday.
This was the most deadly attack in the capital in three years and was relatively mild since the IS’s territorial defeat in late 2017.
But it also points to a cumulative shortage of Iraqi security forces in patchwork, experts said.
“IS isn’t coming back. The fact that this is news shows how better the situation is compared to the past,” said Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. ..
“But there are some very obvious problems in the Iraqi security sector, which reflect that.”
Following the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraqi security forces had to be effectively rebuilt from scratch, relying heavily on training by foreign troops.
The Covid-19 pandemic stopped it abruptly.
The Iraqi army, who lived together at a base with little social distance, was one of the first victims of the coronavirus in the country.
In March 2020, the US-led coalition announced that it would withdraw foreign trainers to stop the pandemic from expanding.
“Covid-19 has created a gap that has reduced training over the past year,” a US top executive in Baghdad told AFP last month.
It also meant that Iraqi security services reduced access to coalition communications surveillance-an “early warning system” that was important for nipating sprout IS attacks.
Many of those withdrawals have become permanent.
The US-led coalition announced last year that Iraqi troops were able to fight the remnants of IS on their own and withdrew from eight bases nationwide.
At the same time, citing improved security conditions, Baghdad authorities have lifted concrete blast walls and checkpoints that have been crowding the city for years.
Combat-enhanced units have been moved out of the city to track local IS Sleeper cells, and inexperienced units have taken over the security of the city.
Security analyst Alex Mello said the combination of these rotations and unreliable intelligence could ultimately create a “abuse gap” in IS.
US officials said Iraqi troops sometimes did not want to tackle IS fighters head-on, allowing small cells to thrive in larger groups.
A single coalition airstrike near Mosul in December killed 42 IS jihadists. This is an unusually high number.
“The senior commander in Baghdad was very angry with the local military. They had to know they were there,” US officials said.
However, the central issue may not be technical.
Iraqi security forces include troops, militarized police forces, and Hashedal-Shaabi, a network of troops that have been incorporated into the state since 2014.
Many were boosted by Iran, which created mutual distrust with some units trained by its great enemy, the United States.
Tensions were heightened by a US drone strike last year, killing Iran’s top general Kasem Soleimani, Deputy Prime Minister Hashed, and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
“The real tension was political,” Watling said.
“There was a lot of informal information sharing between Hashed, the Union, and others during the fight against IS, which no longer exists and reduces situational awareness,” he said.
Overcoming these tensions was a major challenge for Prime Minister Mustafa Arkademi, who is considered US-friendly.
He went up to the Premiership in May while holding his previous post as head of Iraqi intelligence.
Kademi has relied heavily on US-trained anti-terrorism services for a variety of missions, including searching for IS cells, arresting corrupt officials, and even governing rocket-launching groups at the US embassy.
Observers say it’s because he has little trust in other units.
But it also pushed the CTS into an unpleasant confrontation with the pro-Iranian faction, which often ended with the former retreat.
“Continuously withdrawing orders and apologizing to target groups only undermines the CTS, Commander-in-Chief, and the Iraqi state,” said Brookings Institution researcher Marcin Al-Shammary.
Following the attack on Thursday, Kademi announced a review of Iraq’s security leadership, including a new Federal Police commander and chief of the Elite Falcons unit.
Kadhemi hopes that these changes will not only close the holes exploited by the attackers on Thursday, but will also solve the deeper problems of trust and coordination.
However, observers were skeptical about how far it could go if an extensive transplant was made to Iraqi security forces.
“No one is clean when dealing with corrupt bureaucracy,” Watling said.
Baghdad Blasts Expose Gaps In Iraq’s Strained Military Source link Baghdad Blasts Expose Gaps In Iraq’s Strained Military