Baghdad government-sanctioned paramilitary forces predominantly made up of Shiite militiamen backed by Iran have launched a new effort to recapture more Iraqi villages from the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.
Fighters from the mainly Shiite and newly-legalized Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Hashid Shaabi, are carrying out the push to retake more territory from the Islamic State, also known as IS.
The Associated Press (AP) reports: “The [PMF] forces’ spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said on Wednesday that the villages being targeted are located southwest of the town of Tal Afar, still held by the Islamic State group. The spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, Jaafar al-Husseini, said the troops captured the villages of Sharia and Khirbat al-Jahish.”
AP points out that the PMF effort “is likely coordinated with [U.S.-backed Iraqi] government efforts to recapture the western part of Mosul from IS.”
The Iraqi military has deemed eastern Mosul liberated from ISIS and is currently focused on retaking the western part of the city, considered the second-largest in the country.
“The Shiite militias already hold a small airport outside Tal Afar, which is s located some 93 miles (150 kilometers) east of the Syrian border,” AP notes.
Despite denials from the U.S. military, Reuters has confirmed that Shiite militias closely aligned with the Iranian government and the Islamic Republic’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah are actively participating in the offensive to liberate of Mosul.
Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reports that marking a “significant break” in American policy, the U.S.-led coalition has provided weapons and training to hundreds of Iran-allied Shiite militias, including some the U.S. has designated to be terrorists and may have American blood on their hands.
The U.S. military claims it is only assisting Shiite militiamen it has vetted for links to Iran and terrorist groups, as mandated by law.
Among the PMF fighters are individuals who have threatened U.S. service members.
Moreover, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have accused the predominantly Shiite militiamen of committing war crimes, including abductions, torture, and killings, against ISIS fighters and Sunni residents.
Nevertheless, American Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top commander of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, praised the PMF fighters as “disciplined” late last year in an interview with the Daily Beast, noting that they have not endangered U.S. troops yet.
Iraq’s Parliament has enacted a law making the PMF legal and placing them under the umbrella of the Iraqi armed forces, though answering directly to Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.
Some PMF members are Sunni tribesman and Christians, but the majority are Shiites.