‘Iraqi army lacks credibility as Al-Qaeda gains momentum’
The Al-Qaeda militants seized the
cities of Fallujah and Ramadi last week, while the Iraqi army
deployed tanks and artillery to the besieged western province of
Anbar. The militants in control of Fallujah are known to be the
most radical jihadist wing of the Syrian rebels.
RT: The capture of these cities… what does it tell you about how powerful Al-Qaeda has grown?
Anders Kaergaard: Basically I think it tells us how weak the Iraqi government and the Iraqi government forces are. Because the fighting ability of the ISIS (the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant), for instance, is very strong but very contained to localized battles, whereas the Iraqi army really is supposed to be in control of the country, but it isn’t. I think it tells us a lot about the willingness of the ISIS to fight and the lack in the Iraqi army.
RT: The United States is said to be equipping the Iraqi army against potential offences like this. But what chance does the Iraqi army have?
AK: This battle isn’t about equipment, far from it. This battle is about stamina. And one thing the ISIS and the rebels have is stamina. They want to continue fighting. And the Irqui army really hasn’t got a chance to fight these militias or to eradicate them. I think this battle cannot be won on the battleground. It has to be solved by negotiations.
RT: About two years ago, President Obama told the world Al-Qaeda was on the run. How much support does Al-Qaeda have in Iraq, would you say, having served there? Are people sympathetic towards it? Why has Al-Qaeda grown so much momentum?
AK: In my opinion, Al-Qaeda has never been on the run. It has been downscaling due to pressure. But once the pressure is lifted the organization is back in full force. And it uses these forces to regain strength. Prior to the Invasion of Iraq there weren’t really any Al- Qaeda in Iraq. There was a small group called the Ansar al-Islam, which Saddam Hussain tried to eradicate. But since we weren’t able to find any weapons of mass destruction a lot of media coverage was given to Al-Qaeda in Iraq because that was one of the reasons we originally went there. But Al-Qaeda hasn’t been on the run. The general population is not pro-Al-Qaeda I would say, but they are not pro-Iraqi army as well. This is due to a high concentration of Shia militias within these army forces. Much of the Sunni population and big parts of the Shia population, who are not sympathetic to militias, do not feel any confidence in the Iraqi security forces. Therefore due to this lack in credibility in the Iraqi security forces, Al-Qaeda is given some room to maneuver.