Special forces can withdraw during their vacation
Fight against IS in IraqIS is far from history
"That was too early": This week Iraq commemorated the victory over IS that was declared a year ago after the retaking of Mosul. But a fighter from the 'People's Mobilization Units' says in an interview with ARD that IS is still a long way from being destroyed. The man commands a special unit that is always on the front lines. We met him on a home vacation in Basra.
Wherever Aqil Mohammed Rahim is, there is war. Rahim commands a 250-man special unit of the Badr Brigades, part of the mostly Shiite people's mobilization units. He and his people are always on the front lines against ISIS - currently in Khanaqin, a city in the northeast on the Iranian border. Rahim's rhythm: 15 days of war, 15 days of home leave in Basra.
"I want to liberate my country and create peace where I am. I want to show that we are there. Normal people shouldn't be full of worry when they get out of the car, they should be able to sleep peacefully at night. And when." a woman goes out in the evening, she shouldn't be afraid. "
IS fighters hide in the civilian population
Rahim, 41, gave up his job as a truck driver four years ago and joined the fight against IS. Like tens of thousands of other men from the mostly Shiite south of Iraq, he moved north to the war against the Sunni fanatics. But things are not going well in Khanaqin, says Rahim:
"The situation there is difficult. IS is hiding in a neighborhood. In the evenings, our men are distributed there, are on patrol and set up checkpoints. They want to make the neighborhood and the whole city safe."
Rahim was badly wounded twice, a brother lost a leg and a cousin lost an eye. But he and his relatives know exactly what they are fighting for, says Rahim and talks about his four children. He has no illusions - it will take some time before IS is destroyed.
"When Mosul was liberated, victory was declared. (...) But the IS fighters, the sleeper cells - not all were killed. Some of them simply hid their weapons between civilians or in caves. But we know exactly that these people are still there! Victory was only proclaimed to raise people's morale. "
Rahim demands a free hand from the government in the fight against IS; then everything would go faster. But the popular mobilization units are accused of atrocities. Some Sunni and Kurdish politicians are therefore demanding that it be dissolved. - Majid al-Sari also says very clearly: ISIS is far from history in Iraq. Sari has been advising the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad for years.
Retreat to remote areas
"ISIS has been defeated militarily. The so-called caliphate has disappeared, many ISIS people have been killed. But the IS ideology is still there. It is an ideology of terror, a belief. But until now, no Muslim has said that the IS- People are unbelievers. ISIS is not Islamic. "
In August, the Pentagon and the United Nations estimated the number of IS fighters in Iraq at still up to 17,000 men. Many of them have withdrawn to the Syrian-Iraqi border area, to the desert of the Iraqi province of Anbar and to some spots near Mosul. Others simply went into hiding in their home villages. Now - according to Sari - IS is operating as it used to be, as a terrorist organization.
"An attack here, an attack there, suicide bombings. Our army now has experience and is well equipped. And cooperation with NATO, with our Russian friend and with the American side - that makes all IS operations difficult. They never will come back as before. They are now carrying out attacks as they used to be. "
All in all, the Iraqis have made further progress this year - and their country safer: In November the number of civilian terrorist deaths across the country fell to 41, according to the United Nations. That's the lowest number in six years.
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