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Anti-ISIS coalition taking different approaches in Iraq, Syria

Awad Mustafa

Published: Updated:

The Combined Joint Task Force to defeat ISIS has trained 116,000 forces to secure Iraq after the defeat of the extremist group while only 1,500 are present in liberated areas in Syria, according to a senior officer.

According to Colonel Ryan Dillon, Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, preparations are underway to deal with ISIS as an insurgency.

“What we are doing now is preparing for what we believe ISIS will devolve into and this is an insurgency,” Col. Dillon told Al Arabiya English in a phone Interview from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

The spokesman for the coalition said that in Iraq, 116,000 security forces have been trained since ISIS swept across vast swathes of Iraq in 2014.

“We had to very quickly provide a force that can defeat them militarily,” he said. “In Iraq, the coalition has trained more than 116,000 Iraqi security forces and that goes from 43,000 Iraqi army, 19,000 police, 6,500 border security guards, 2,200 Peshmerga, 14,000 counter terrorism service members and 10,000 tribal mobilization forces,” Col Dillion said.

The coalition are adapting the training strategy to prepare the Iraqi security forces to face insurgent threats.

“We work with their counter-terrorism service, their police, their border-guard service and we will continue to work with them on these efforts so that after ISIS is militarily defeated,” he said.

‘A lot more fighting left in Syria’

In Syria, however, the coalition has only been limited to co-operating with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the north and the Maghawir al-Thawra forces in the south.

“With the SDF that have liberated places like Tabqa and Manbij, many civilian councils have been formed that are representative of the people,” he said. The councils in every liberated area have established a local security force to protect it.

In Raqqa, an internal security force was set up. “We as a coalition have trained 1,500 personnel in the Raqqa internal security force and they are already began conducting screenings in the area,” Col. Dillion said.

Former Jordanian military commander and strategic advisor, Maj. Gen. Fayez Al Dowairi, has warned that the United States dependency on the SDF is only a short-term solution.

“The SDF since 2016 have been receiving weapons, training and battle guidance from the American forces,” he said.

“Now for the Americans to get the SDF social acceptance in the theatre of their operations, tribal members from those areas have been included with the Kurdish forces under the guise of military councils, especially because those areas do not have a Kurdish majority,” Dowairi said.

He said that these Arab council members are being trained by SDF personnel who have been trained by the Americans so the forces would not be called purely Kurdish forces but rather Syrian forces.

The SDF has a small force in comparison to the size of the theater of operations therefore, they need to train local forces to secure liberated areas, he said. “After that they will not be able to control all those Arab majority villages so the Americans will move on and secure new partners,” he said.

So far, ISIS has lost almost all of its territory and are on the back foot. “Syrian Democratic Forces operating in the proclaimed capital of Raqqa have cleared 65 percent of the city with very little resistance from ISIS,” Dilion said.

Despite that, there still is a lot of fighting to do and there are still many ISIS holdouts in Syria.

“Throughout the middle you have these river valleys, this is not going to be done overnight and there is still a lot of hard fighting to do,” he said.