More than two years after defeating the terrorist ISIS in Iraq, the terrorist organization renewed its attacks through its sleeper cells, targeting areas it had lost in the north of the country.
According to a report of the US Foreign Policy magazine, pockets of terrorist organization are still active and threaten remote areas of Iraq, where many of its followers are deployed now in tunnels where they store food and necessities and work in cells of five to ten people.
The term dormant cells is a term used by Iraqi military commanders for groups of the organization, operating clandestinely in different parts of the country and attacking specific targets quickly (blitz) before withdrawing from targeted areas.
In the past few weeks, elements of the organization launched attacks against security forces and civilians in parts of the city of Mosul, Kirkuk, Diyala and Anbar, leaving dead and wounded.
In a report published last June in the Washington Examiner magazine , it said that “the remnants of the terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq are trying to regroup its elements after the disintegration of the terrorist organization earlier this year, asserting that the Da’ash fighters returned to insurgent tactics” The war of streets, “forcing Syrian Democratic forces (SDF) , Qasad , and US-backed Iraqi security forces to adjust their strategy to focus on countering the conventional threat.
“Some experts are concerned that this may be an indication of the organization’s readiness to carry out an operation of restoration of lost land,” the magazine noted.
In this context, the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi stressed, in May, that the sleeping cells of ISIS continue to confuse the situation, and stressed that any deviation in the face and fight ISIS will create a large gap in the community, pointing to the cohesion of security forces and the army in Iraq and its ability to defeat the organization.
For its part, the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Council of Representatives warned, the seriousness of the movements of terrorist cells of Daash in the city of Mosul in the north of the country on the public security file, and noted that the organization succeeded in 2014 to establish a base to launch attacks from Mosul towards the rest of the provinces.
“The cells of ISIS organization are active on the (western) side of the city of Mosul,” said Mohammad Reza, the head of the committee, who held a military post at the rank of Lt. General in the Iraqi army. And he noted, “The danger lies in the fact that the western side of the city of Mosul is linked to the areas of Al- Baaj and al-Jazeera (South and west of Mosul), which are open areas extending to the rest of the provinces.
Reza pointed out that there are desert areas between the responsibility sector of commanding the operations of Nineveh (north) and the responsibility sector of commanding the operations of the al-Jazeera and alBadya in Anbar province (west), and needs additional forces to tighten control and to prevent the activity of the organization and eliminate the activity of ISIS, and Reza considered that there is a need for large-scale military operations involving army aviation, as well as tightening border controls to prevent infiltration by elements of the organization.
He pointed out that “so far, there is infiltration of the elements of the ISIS from Syria to Iraq, because the border area of more than 600 kilometers, and it was not fully controlled by (security) .”
According to Reza, “the map of the activity of ISIS cells is currently concentrated on the western side of the city of Mosul, and areas south of Kirkuk, especially in the villages that the displaced have not returned to it so far, in addition to the desert in Anbar province.”
Despite the Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s assertion that the organization of the ISIS has lost the elements that enable it to regain control of some areas as it was in 2014, but it emphasizes the activity carried out by the cells of the organization targeting security forces and civilians.
Brigadier Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command (belong to the Iraqi defense ministry), said: “The organization of ISIS has lost its ability to control the areas.”
and he noted ,” but its dormant cells are hiding in desert areas and mountain ranges, and its elements are targeting security forces and civilians , and currently we are intensifying intelligence efforts and carrying out military operations.
Rasul explained that “the military operations carried out by the security forces, resulted in the destruction of many tunnels and hideouts of the terrorist organization, and sometimes targeting the sites of the organization by the Air Force by direct shelling or air landing of troops (airdrops) ,” and ” Iraqi forces focused on , during its security operations , the west of the province of Nineveh, represented by the district of al-Hadher and al-Baaj, in addition to the desert of Anbar province, the Hamrin mountain range and Makhoul, and the Iraqi-Syrian border line
Security officials and experts in Iraq do not see serious danger that could be posed by a “ISIS organization” in the country, but they warn of the continuation of its sleeping cells. Iraqi leaders and officials are still betting on the military’s ability to inflict defeats on its cells after the defeat of ISIS by Iraqi army a in late 2017. .
Despite the many warnings of the return of new generations of the organization, according to a US report published this week, all that ISIS can do now of operations in Iraq “does not exceed the clashes with forces and security services here or there.”
Experts believe that the actions of the cells of the organization of operations, will not affect the overall context of the official organs of the follow-up and the pursuit of this organization in the places where it is holed up, although the attacks are in the context of the hit-and-run.
The experts pointed out that the Iraqi intelligence capacity has developed a lot during the past years and began to carry out major quality operations, including the arrest of senior leaders of the organization in Syria and Iraq, and questioned the ability of the organization to affect the security, due to several factors, the most important of the are , the development of military and intelligence performance and the rejection of local community to these terrorist elements whose objectives are revealed to it.
They believe that the strategy of the terrorist ISIS is not aimed at controlling certain areas in Iraq, because it no longer serves the organization and its plans for the next stage. They said that when ISIS was founded in Iraq, it started with sleeper cells that launched attacks against military, security and civilian targets and cause the horror to everyone , which the organization is currently seeking to implement.
They explained that through the terrorist operations carried out after the declaration of Iraq a defeat of ISIS in 2017, it is shown that there is a kind of coordination in the attacks by the elements of the organization, although the belief that the centrality of ISIS in the implementation of terrorist operations ended with the disappearance of the leader of the organization Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the elimination of ISIS will be carried out through coordinated military operations, in coordination with the International Alliance, which has sophisticated systems in the control and identification of the hiding places of the organization elements, and the imposition of tight control over the Anbar desert, which is one of the main strongholds of the organization and its supply lines.
In the opinion of the Western military analyzes, the defeat of ISIS is progressing to destroy the organization, but this does not mean that the battle is won, because ISIS is trying to rise, and we will continue to help our partners to enhance their gains in the follow-up of dormant cells of organization, but the organization still has dormant cells throughout Iraq , and gradually began to return to its old style of launching rapid attacks (blitz) in the guerrilla style , which it used before 2014.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies