Iran-backed groups urge full US withdrawal from Iraq

US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division fire artillery in support of Iraqi forces fighting Daesh militants from their base east of Mosul. (AP/File photo)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Iran-backed groups urge full US withdrawal from Iraq

BAGHDAD: Two major Iraqi Shiite groups backed by Iran are demanding all US forces leave Iraq, opposing plans by Baghdad and Washington to keep some there for training and advisory purposes.
An Iraqi government spokesman said on Monday US forces — who number more than 5,000 — had begun reducing their numbers but some would remain.
The Badr Organization, a Shiite group that has a minister in Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s government, in charge of the interior, said any remaining US, troops would be cause for instability.
“The two governments should coordinate to ensure a full withdrawal. US presence will be cause for internal polarization and a magnet for terrorists,” Badr spokesman Kareem Nuri said.
Kataib Hezbollah, a more militant, secretive and anti-American group, repeated threats to attack US forces.
“We are serious about getting the Americans out, using the force of arms because the Americans don’t understand any other language,” its spokesman, Jaafar Al-Husseini, told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Monday evening.
Kataib Hezbollah has strong links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and has threatened to attack US forces several times in the past, describing their presence as an occupation.
A US official in Baghdad said: “We take anything that sounds like a threat from anyone against Americans seriously.”
“There’s not that many of us here and we are all operating within Iraqi military bases. A lot of this is frankly just political posturing and trying to take advantage of stories in the press to make broader political points,” he added.
The US-led international military coalition helped Iraqi forces recapture territory taken by Daesh in 2014 and 2015, providing air and artillery support in the battle to for Mosul, and trained tens of thousands of elite Iraqi soldiers.
“The coalition will tailor our forces in consultation with our Iraqi partners in order to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh,” the coalition’s director of operations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, said in a statement on Monday.
Braga said that even if the composition of the force changes, the coalition would maintain the capabilities and presence to continue to train, advise and equip Iraqi forces to ensure that Daesh does not re-emerge.
US officials said that while Daesh has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, there is concern about surviving fighters returning to insurgency tactics.


US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

Updated 20 October 2018
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US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

BEIRUT: An offensive by US-backed forces against Daesh’s last redoubt in eastern Syria killed 35 militants on Saturday, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Twenty-eight Daesh members were killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition around the town of Hajjin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another seven militants were killed in ground fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who launched a coalition-backed offensive against the Daesh-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley last month.
Fighting has killed 414 militants and 227 SDF fighters in total since the assault began on September 10, the Observatory said.
Coalition air strikes on Daesh targets in another part of the pocket on Thursday and Friday killed at least 41 civilians, 10 of them children, the monitor said.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across the land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.
In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajjin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.