The U.S.-backed Iraqi military hosted a victory parade in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone over the weekend to mark the end of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Iraqi troops reportedly celebrated their final victory over ISIS on Sunday, a day after they retook the last areas under ISIS control in Iraq along the country’s border with Syria.
Iraq’s victory parade came nearly three years after the jihadist group conquered about a third of the country.
Nevertheless, Reuters warns that the U.S.-backed Iraqi “forces fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria now expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare.”
An Iraqi military parade in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone celebrated final victory over Islamic State on Sunday, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi looking on as troops marched in formation, their bodies spelling “victory day” in Arabic.
Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under Islamic State control along the border with Syria on Saturday and secured the western desert, marking the end of the war against the militants three years after they had captured about a third of Iraq’s territory.
Sunday’s parade celebrated Iraqi forces who took the fight to ISIS, including the country’s army, air force, elite counterterrorism forces, federal and local police, as well as Iran-backed Shiite fighters, Sunni paramilitaries, and Kurdish Peshmerga troops.
All of them received assistance from the U.S.-led coalition.
Despite the Kurds’ contribution to ISIS’s demise in Iraq, Shiite PM Abadi failed to mention the Peshmerga during his victory speech.
Instead, the Iraqi leader praised the Iran-allied Shiite troops, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/U).
The relationship between Baghdad and northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has deteriorated since the Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in September.
Baghdad opposes the establishment of a sovereign Kurdish state and has used Shiite troops to try to coerce the Kurds into abandoning their independence ambitions.
In August, Brett McGurk, the State Department’s special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition who also served under the previous administration, acknowledged that ISIS losses “accelerated dramatically” under U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump’s delegation of decision-making authority to the U.S. military has fueled the annihilation of ISIS jihadists, he conceded.
Iraq’s victory lap also comes at a time when ISIS is believed to be standing on its last legs in neighboring Syria.
U.S. national security officials warn that ISIS remains a threat despite its losses on the battlefield.
In fact, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke recently cautioned that the ISIS threat against the United States has intensified in recent months as ISIS tries to maintain its strength and influence.
ISIS is believed to have inspired the recent attempted “pipe bomb” attack on New York City’s subway by a Bangladesh national.
“As ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its operations will become more distributed and more reliant on virtual connections. Their terrorist cadres will migrate to other safe havens where they can direct and enable attacks against the United States, our allies, and partners, and our global interests,” recently cautioned Mark Mitchell, the Pentagon’s acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict.
“They will also continue to radicalize vulnerable individuals and inspire them to conduct ‘lone wolf’ (or ‘stray dog’) attacks,” he added.