Daily US Times: Two years after losing its last territory in Iraq, the Islamic State is reorganizing in the country. Growing indications of IS presence is becoming clear, their attacks are increasing, and it’s considered as a sophisticated insurgency.
The BBC reports quoting Kurdish and Western intelligence officials.
Lahur Talabany, a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official claimed IS militants are more skilled now and more dangerous threat than Al-Qaeda.
He said, ‘They have better techniques, better tactics and a lot more money at their disposal. They are able to buy vehicles, weapons, food supplies and equipment. Technologically they’re more savvy. It’s more difficult to flush them out. So, they are like al-Qaeda on steroids.’
Lahur Talabany had fleed from Iraq to London during the Saddam Hussein regime.
His base is now is Sumaimaniya, a Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. In his base, he described how the IS reorganized themselves in the last 12 months and rebuilding from the carnage of its caliphate.
One of two intelligence agencies in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zanyari Agency chief Mr Talabany thinks the rebuilding phase of IS is over now and new IS is a different kind.
What’s the difference of ‘new IS?’ Mr Talabany explains, new IS no longer wants to control any territory to avoid being target. Rather they have gone underground in Iraq’s Hamrin Mountains like their predecessors in Al-Qaeda.
According to Mr Talabany, Hamrin Mountains is now the hub of IS now. The hills are strategic for them too because there are a lot of hide-outs and caves. The area of the hills are huge and it’s very difficult for the Iraqi army to fight with them and gain control.
He predicted that IS could use the current unrest in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad by their own and the political unrest could bring them ‘early Christmas’.
Vast uncontrolled area
Following a Kurdish independence referendum in 2017, relations between Baghdad and Kurdistan regional government turned sour. IS is also benefitting from this situation too.
There is now a vast area of no man’s land in northern Iraq between Kurdish Peshmerga security forces and their Iraqi counterparts, where only IS is patrolling now. As neither Iraqi forces nor Kurdish Peshmerga security forces have control in this vast region, IS established their control over the zone.
Major General Sirwan Barzani worried expression didn’t hide from his face amid growing IS power. He said, ‘In the delta between the Great Zab and Tigris rivers we can say they are permanently there. There is too much activity from IS in the area close to the Tigris. Day by day we can see the movement of ISIS, and the activities.’
‘I can compare 2019 with 2012, when they were beginning, organizing themselves, and getting taxes from the people. If the situation continues as it is, in 2020 they will reorganize themselves more, be more powerful and carry out more attacks’, he added.
Kurdish intelligence officials estimate that IS has 4000-5000 fighters in Iraq and similar number of sleeper cells and sympathizers.
IS is gaining its power back in Iraq. If it gets comfortable there, they will think about operations outside of Iraq and Syria. So Mr Talabany said the international community should be worried.