Partnering to Defeat Terrorism in Iraq
DR. HUSSEIN ALAW, CHAIRMAN AND FOUNDER, AKKAD CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AFFAIRS AND FUTURE STUDIES
It seems that partnership is a new concept in the Middle East and North Africa, but it is one of the primary ways to ensure battle readiness, especially in the military doctrines of Western countries. This includes the United States, which has developed its experience uniquely.
I will begin with the great success of the 1991 Gulf War. This was a moment of comprehensive international partnership following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, when the U.S. and the international coalition toyed with the idea of restoring Kuwaiti territory to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage a new war in West Asia.
The international coalition moved in another direction after March 19, 2003, working to impede the former political regime’s capabilities and drive the Ba’ath Party toward collapse. The U.S. and international coalition built a new regime and supported the Iraqi political elite to create a new model of statehood in the Middle East and North Africa, but terrorism and political infighting — a natural consequence of the change — hindered the effective emergence of the state.
This made Iraqi authority vulnerable to internal challenges from insurgency, terrorist forces and a culture of hatred. To this day, Iraqis bear the brunt of the effects of April 9, 2003 — the day Baghdad fell to coalition forces.
The state has struggled to overcome the terrorism and tribal-sectarian social strife fomented by supporters of the past regime, who sought to undermine the Iraqi experiment.
This created a space for the emergence of regional terrorist organizations like al-Qaida, as well as a new generation of al-Qaida offshoots like Daesh. Combating Daesh will require unity on the part of the international community and steadfastness from the U.S. as it continues to support Iraq in restoring territory previously under Daesh’s control in Mosul. Since September 22, 2014, this international coalition has worked to defeat Daesh.
Allied against danger
When terrorism threatens a country, the U.S. — as the most politically active country in the world — must support that country, especially if it is still emerging from the wreckage of past wars.
Because of the collapse of parts of the Iraqi Armed Forces, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service played a major role in combating Daesh’s terrorist activity in Iraqi territory. Its soldiers fought under the leadership of Gen. Talib Shaghati Alkenani, who began by fortifying Baghdad from the southern axis in the battles of Jurf Alsakhar and from the northern axis to fight to secure Samarra and the approaches to Baghdad.
This occurred thanks to the partnership between the counterterror force and the international coalition. In particular, American forces played a major role in logistics support operations by strengthening communications systems, close-air support and other systems to defeat Daesh terrorists. The coalition partnership served as a model for the Iraqi Armed Forces, which partnered with forces such as the federal police and Iraqi tribal fighters.
This model of partnership was developed after a study by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Joseph Danford, who worked to deter threats by providing air support, advice and assistance for combat military units within division, brigade and tactical units on the battlefield. This partnership helped Iraqis, especially in the combined joint operation command, manage the war against Daesh in three key ways: fighting in major cities, near the river and in built-up areas.
With American and coalition support, these strategic developments have led to increased combat effectiveness and shorter battles.
Moving toward integrated partnership
When Daesh collapses in Iraqi territory, it will likely form offshoots to conduct armed attacks in urban areas and may begin to adopt new insurgency tactics. With the passage of an anti-terrorism law in late 2016, the counterterrorism apparatus now cooperates with joint military and civilian forces. We must further develop this partnership through the joint agendas of the counterterrorism apparatus and international coalition forces through the following:
- Deconstruct violent extremism
Violent extremism is based on an accumulation of local grievances, distrust of the political regime, religious belief, and terrorist organizations’ exploitation of veteran fighters’ experience to attract new recruits. Terrorists use three tools: the fatwa, fundraising, and emotional manipulation to create a new generation of terrorists. The counterterrorism apparatus must adopt the noble task of dismantling the narrative of violent extremism by drawing on the experiences of countries in the international coalition.
- Increase intelligence sharing
Iraq must increase its intelligence analysis capabilities, particularly in forecasting and signals intelligence. In addition, it must develop electronic applications to build databases of intelligence analysis in liberated areas to maintain stability and solidify security objectives in areas vulnerable to the disease of terrorism.
- Improve the drone system
Iraq must also create intensive engineering and electronics workshops to develop new tasks for the use of drones in military and counterterrorism operations. These workshops would help develop Iraqi national capabilities in counterterrorism by improving drones and providing border control systems with actionable intelligence.
- Establish an Iraqi airborne division
Owing to the collapse of oil prices, the cost of the war against Daesh, and the challenge of sustaining the local economy in liberated areas, Iraq suffers from a lack of money for major projects in the security and defense sector. For that reason, the partnership to defeat Daesh requires help from international coalition forces, especially the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and others to build a new Iraqi counterterrorism model that can respond rapidly to any terrorist threat or cross-border international crime.
The counterterrorism apparatus has proven its effectiveness in special operations management. As we work to increase the capabilities of the Iraqi Air Force, we should focus not on the size of the terrorist threat to Iraq’s national security, but rather on cooperation and integration among all of Iraqi forces. Our counterterrorism teams are ready to assist with the management of our airborne forces to conduct joint operations against terrorist threats in Iraq, whether they be in desert or dense urban areas.
- Create special joint operations programs
Iraq has unique experience in managing conflict in cooperation with the international coalition. Therefore, the international coalition in Iraq must cooperate with its Arab, regional and worldwide counterparts to exchange ideas and expertise and establish Iraq as a theater of special operations training.
The model of partnership between Iraq and the international coalition — especially between the U.S. and Iraqi counterterror forces — will be an important way to defeat and eliminate terrorism.