Rampant corruption among Iraq’s security forces and law enforcement officials is making it possible for Islamic State jihadists to return to areas it once controlled as it loses territory in Mosul, reports the Washington Post (WaPo).
“The Islamic State is nearing defeat on the battlefield, but away from the front lines its members are seeping back into areas the group once controlled, taking advantage of rampant corruption in Iraq’s security forces and institutions,” points out WaPo.
“We are very concerned we will end up back at square one,” Eid al-Karbouli, a spokesman for Anbar’s provincial council,” told the Post.
Last week, Lahur Talabany, a senior Kurdish intelligence official in Iraq, echoed WaPo’s report, telling Reuters that retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, will only push the jihadist group to other parts of the war-ravaged country.
Ramadi and Fallujah are among the first cities to fall into the hands of the jihadist group in 2014.
Although those two places remain under the control of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, corrupt law enforcement officials are allowing the jihadists to return.
“Police officers, judges and local officials describe an uneven hand of justice that allows some Islamic State collaborators to walk, dimming Iraq’s chances of escaping the cycle of violence that has plagued the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion,” notes WaPo.
The Post also notes that ISIS has established sleeper cells in the large swathe of the territory it once controlled in Iraq.
“The Islamic State lost much of the support it had garnered after people experienced living under the group, making it difficult for it to take territory again. Still, there is a problem with ‘sleeper cells,’” Col. Yassir Ismail Moussa, a spokesman for the police in Iraq’s Anbar province, told WaPo.
Although the U.S.-backed Iraqi alliance fighting to recapture Mosul has declared the eastern part of the city liberated, the Iraqi military has conceded that sleeper cells remain entrenched there.
“Security officials had long warned of [ISIS] sleeper cells operating in the city, which has a large Sunni Arab population but has been under Kurdish control since June 2014,” reported the Telegraph this month.
The Pentagon has acknowledged that Iraq will need the assistance of U.S. troops after the fall of Mosul, often described as ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq.
After Mosul is recaptured, “there will be an ISIL tendency to go underground and to go to more isolated regions and continue to try to mount operations, and that’ll require a sustained effort. And I think the United States and the international coalition, everybody’s realistic about that,” then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters in January.