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Iraqi, Peshmerga forces ponder joint operations after upsurge in ISIS activity on Mount Qarachogh

Iraqi forces and Peshmerga are deliberating over conducting joint operations in Makhmour and Mount Qarachogh as Islamic State (ISIS) remnants increase their activities in the disputed areas.

The Iraqi army has increased its presence at the foot of the mountain range in response to an uptick of activity last month.

“Undoubtedly, there are going to be joint operations between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces. There is an order from the commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces [Mustafa al-Kadhimi] that there needs to be coordination with the Peshmerga forces, notably in the Makhmour area,” Brig. Gen. Abdulla Ramadhan, commander of the Iraqi Army’s 14th Division, told Rudaw on Tuesday.

Disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government, Mount Qarachogh is located just 60 kilometres southwest of Erbil. It has become a safe haven for ISIS fighters since the group’s territorial control came to an end in 2017.

“The objective is to limit Daesh [ISIS] activities and eliminate them in the Makhmour region. After we cleared the Ganouz area, the militants fled to Mount Qarachogh. Therefore, we are taking these measures to limit their activities,” Ramadhan added.

Kurdish and Iraqi forces both continue to carry out separate operations backed by the US-led Coalition to root out ISIS remnants.

“Areas with security gaps have turned into safe havens for Daesh militants. They have even established bases in them, where they train their militants,” Jabar Yawar, secretary general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, told Rudaw on Tuesday.

“We are ready to coordinate, to station joint forces, to protect the security of these areas, and even to eliminate Daesh there once and for all. If we carry out joint operations and station our forces and not withdraw them, Daesh will end in these areas. But the only side that does not come forward is the Iraqi federal government,” he added.

ISIS sleeper cells have resorted to carrying out kidnappings, arsons, and ambushes in the disputed territories since its territorial defeat.

From the beginning of January 2020 to late January 2021, coalition warplanes have targeted ISIS hideouts and bunkers in the Makhmour region 82 times, killing a total of 56 militants, said Brig. Gen. Srood Salih, a commander of the Peshmerga.

According to ISIS propaganda outlet Amaq, the terror group carried out 1,422 attacks in Iraq in 2020.

A total of 2,748 people were killed as a result of the attacks, Amaq said earlier this month. Source: Rudaw