Iraqi PM Receives US Congress Delegation, Agrees to Reduce Military Advisers
The security information center of the Joint Operations Command announced on Wednesday the launch of operation dubbed “Vengeance for the Martyrs” to liberate Salahddin and Diyala.
According to Iraqi National Security Spokesman Yahya Rasul the operation is conducted with the coordination of Joint Operations Command that involves federal police, rapid response, Salahaddin and Diyala police, Peshmerga forces and International Coalition forces. The operation aims at clearing the eastern part of Diyala-Kirkuk road.
The announcement comes a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi met with a delegation from the US Congress and announced the intention to reduce the number of US military advisers who gave advice and air and logistical support to Iraqi forces during the war against ISIS after June 2014.
The delegation included member of the Financial Appropriations Committee and Armed Services Committee Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, member of the Armed Services Committee Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Seelman, US Army Lt-Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, and a number of US Senate advisers.
PM Media office issued a statement saying that Abadi discussed with the US officials bilateral relations and “supporting Iraq in all areas in the region and reducing the number of US advisers in Iraq.”
Later in the afternoon, the Security Center issued a number of statements on the progress of the “Vengeance for the Martyrs”.
It seems that the new operation is dubbed Vengeance for the Martyrs after ISIS captured and killed last month eight soldiers on a highway north of Baghdad. Some of the abductees had appeared in a video in which ISIS threatened to execute them unless Baghdad released female prisoners.
Military expert retired general Abdul Karim Khalaf, stated that special forces are the leading force in this operation because they are a competent force and their training complies with that of anti-terrorism forces.
Khalaf believes that "the recurrence of terrorist operations in these areas has political aspects relating to the demands of bringing Peshmerga forces and deployment of governmental forces in Kirkuk and other disputed areas."
"The number of US advisers is determined according to Iraq’s needs and reducing their number is necessary as a result of the shift in the military operations of the Iraqi forces," said Abd al-Karim Khalaf.
Formerly, most of the efforts of US advisers have been focused on intelligence, logistical support and air strikes, Khalaf indicated, adding that the number of US advisers who have worked in Iraq since 2014 is estimated at 5,000.
Head of Turkmen mobilization force in Kirkuk Ali Husseini confirmed the initiation of the operation.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he indicated that "the operation was launched from three axes in Tuzkhurmato and east of Hamrin Mountain, covering the vast areas between Salahaddin, Diyala and Kirkuk.
Husseini said that "the lack of coordination between the forces in Salahaddin, Diyala and Kirkuk allowed the armed groups to do some terrorist acts."
Husseini admitted there few ISIS members in the rugged and vast region between the provinces of Salahaddin, Diyala and Kirkuk, but “these terrorist elements are not capable of carrying out big operations and that is why they resort to targeting defenseless citizens.”
For its part, the Security Committee of Diyala Council announced that the air force will participate in the plan to protect Baghdad – Kirkuk road.
The terrorist acts carried out recently by ISIS along the road between Diyala and Kirkuk have provoked popular discontent and prompted quite a few citizens to refrain from traveling to Kurdistan region along that route.