Over the course of a gruelling three-year campaign, Iraqi forces backed by a United States-led coalition successfully drove Daesh from the vast swaths of territory it had seized in the summer of 2014, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared a final victory in December. But Iraqi and coalition officials have warned that the group remains capable of carrying out insurgent-style attacks.
A spate of attacks over the past few months have killed more than 200 security force members, although they killings rarely make the headlines. Over the past week alone, Daesh has claimed responsibility for six attacks at fake checkpoints. Other attacks have included strikes on oil installations and convoys, with Daesh claiming to have captured weapons and vehicles. The attacks have focused on rural targets and have increased ahead of elections planned for May. They are in keeping with Daesh documents uncovered by intelligence officials months ago that detailed plans for an insurgent campaign on the heels of the group’s territorial defeat.
Since victory was declared against the group, the US-led coalition has begun to reduce its military presence in Iraq and moved many of its assets to Syria and Afghanistan.
Without coalition help Iraqi forces are not getting as much intelligence as they used to. Observers have already warned that the delicate situation in Iraq, if left unattended, could spiral out of control and be back to square one. The birth of Daesh itself stands as a cautionary tale of how such monstrous groups are able to form and spread. The US war led by former president George W. Bush in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussain and the debathification process that followed alienated key sections of the country’s Sunni population.
The mixing of jailed Islamists, who were subjugated under the newly-installed Shiite majority leadership, and Baath members had led to the creation of Daesh. The terrorist group was able to grow because of the large number of disaffected Sunnis who felt marginalised in a new Iraq. Of course, under former US president Barack Obama, most US troops were pulled out of the country, allowing these terrorist groups enough space to operate and flourish.
The world should learn that it cannot simply wash its hands off the responsibilities in Iraq because the Daesh threat has now been globalised. Operatives have struck far and wide — from the US, to France to the United Kingdom and all across the Middle East.
The mistakes of the past must be remembered and there should be no let-up in making sure Daesh remains a vanquished force.