By Debbie Gregory.
Upon the recommendation of U.S. officials, Iraqi leaders have chosen to withdraw Shiite militias from the Ramadi area of the Anbar Province. The U.S.-led coalition has since stepped up bombing raids and other actions to support the remaining Iraqi forces battling against the Islamic State in that region.
After the Islamic State captured Mosul in June of 2014, tens of thousands of Iraq’s regular soldiers deserted. Out of necessity, Iraq became reliant on local militias to supplement their country’s diminished defense force. Iraqi militias, also called the popular mobilization, are merely armed groups of men who volunteer to fight in support of Iraq’s government, which is Shiite, as opposed to for the insurgent groups, which are mostly Sunni. Many of the militias are comprised of Shiite Muslims, and they are usually well organized and disciplined, albeit often under trained as soldiers. But what these militiamen lack in training, they make up for in courage and their willingness to fight.
As much as the militias have been needed for Iraq’s defenses, their presence in some areas has caused a dilemma for Iraq’s efforts against the Islamic State. It would be a gross understatement to say that Shiites and Sunnis don’t get along. Putting Shiite militias in a mostly Sunni occupied region to fight against the Sunni-led Islamic State forces could cause more locals to side with the Islamic State and aid their cause.
Leaders within the Anbar province claim to have received promises from Iraq’s federal government that Shiite militias would not be involved as whole units in operations near Ramadi, only individual fighters serving under the command of Iraq’s military. But there were reports as recent as last week claiming that multiple Shiite militias were actively involved in combat in the Al Sajariya Ramadi area.
With nearly all Iraqi government, military and militia leaders requesting U.S. and coalition forces conduct more air strikes against the Islamic State, U.S. Ambassador Stuart E. Jones leveraged the air strike increase against the withdrawal of Shiite militias from the area. During an April 12th meeting, Jones warned that unless the Shiite militias were withdrawn, the air strikes would not happen.
With the compliance of the Shiite militias, for the greater cause that they have been fighting for, the U.S. and other countries have stepped up air strikes against the Islamic State near Ramadi.
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Military Connection: U.S. Urges Shiite Militias to Move From Ramadi: By Debbie Gregory