US-Led Coalition Reveals Number of Troops in Iraq

US troops, part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq (File Photo: AFP)
US troops, part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq (File Photo: AFP)
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US-Led Coalition Reveals Number of Troops in Iraq

US troops, part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq (File Photo: AFP)
US troops, part of the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq (File Photo: AFP)

The US-led global coalition against ISIS revealed there are 3,000 members of its forces currently in Iraq.

The announcement came after the recent controversy created following the dismissal of US Defense Secretary Mark Esper by outgoing US President Donald Trump and the appointment of Christopher Miller as acting minister.

Political observers believe that the appointment of Miller after President-elect Joe Biden won the elections, could indicate a possible US strike against Iran.

Miller announced the withdrawal of the remaining soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to speculations about whether a war scenario or a strike is still possible.

Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) Spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto announced that coalition forces are repositioning in the country after handing over some military bases to Iraqi troops as a result of the success they have achieved.

The spokesman pointed out that the number of US forces is close to 3000 soldiers, and this number depends on the circumstances.

He indicated that the coalition carried out over 37,000 sorties in Iraq during the past six years, noting that the coalition aims to help Baghdad pursue ISIS remnants until the country reaches stability.

The Iraqi forces have proven their success in fighting terrorism in cooperation with the coalition forces, confirmed Marotto.

However, it is still not clear whether the coalition forces will remain in Iraq after the recent developments, or they will be included in the withdrawal which Miller announced, saying he was “weary of war” and it was time to end US conflicts in the Middle East.

“We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home,” Miller told Department of Defense employees.

Meanwhile, expert and advisor to the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Imad Alou, indicated that despite the death of its leader and incurred losses, ISIS managed within a short period of time to rearrange itself, including its structure and leadership.

Alou told Asharq al-Awsat that the terrorist organization formed several committees tasked with restoring its operations and launching terrorist attacks in remote unmonitored areas.

He explained that the recent escalation of terrorist operations coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, as the organization benefited from the Iraqi forces’ preoccupation with lockdowns and confronting the repercussions of the pandemic.

The expert noted that ISIS tried to increase its operations in areas liked eastern Diyala near the Iraqi-Iranian borders, al-Hamrin mountain range, Makhoul mountains, southwest of Kirkuk, all the way to Nineveh governorate and the Iraqi-Syrian border.

These areas have difficult terrains, making it hard for Iraqi heavy military equipment to reach, he explained.

Alou believes the organization is no longer capable of launching coordinated attacks or maintaining its control over the areas, so it is resorting to various tactics, including tasking groups of no more than five members to carry out terrorist operations.



Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
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Lebanon Prepares Health, Social Plan Amid War Risks

A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)
A Lebanese inspects homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Khiam in southern Lebanon (AFP)

Lebanese political and diplomatic efforts to calm tensions between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon have not eased fears of a potential all-out war. This has led Lebanese ministries to prepare for the worst.

Firas Abyad, the Minister of Public Health in the caretaker government, stated that his ministry has activated a war emergency plan and increased readiness among medical teams.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has also developed strategies to mitigate the impact and respond if a conflict erupts.

“We have a four-month supply of medicines. We’ve strengthened our energy sources like fuel, electricity, and the internet. We’ve also trained our staff for wartime conditions and expect hundreds of thousands to be displaced internally,” said Abyad a few days ago.

A source from the Ministry of Health explained that proactive measures taken in anticipation of potential conflict aim to avoid unexpected situations like those experienced in 2006.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat under the condition of anonymity, the source mentioned that Abyad has been actively involved in refining contingency plans.

“The minister has been actively involved in refining this preparedness plan for months, regularly updating it. We’re also coordinating with international bodies for assistance, which has been positively received,” revealed the source.

The source emphasized that while emergency plans aren’t based on specific war warnings, it’s crucial for the ministry, along with other government bodies, to remain prepared for any unforeseen events.

The source affirmed that the ministry is readying government hospitals, particularly emergency and operating rooms, and coordinating closely with private hospitals.

The ministry is also identifying suitable spots for field hospitals to handle emergencies, providing quick aid to the injured. Additionally, it’s preparing ambulance teams to be available 24/7.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Kheir, the head of Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, assured Asharq Al-Awsat that HRC is fully prepared to handle any developments.

He emphasized their focus on providing food, bedding, and supplies to displaced people, particularly those currently fleeing from the south.

Al-Kheir mentioned that the commission operates within its modest annual budget and receives additional aid, including medicines for the Ministry of Health and government hospitals.

For security reasons, he declined to reveal the locations of new shelters or aid storage centers to prevent them from being targeted.