The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are cooperating with local citizens near the Syrian-Iraqi border to locate and target remaining ISIS sleeper cells that might pose a threat to civilians.
While Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi refused to send the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to intervene militarily within Syria, the ISF continue to chase ISIS militants along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Standing on the frontlines between the ISF and ISIS, Colonel Saleh al-Yaqoubi, a member of the ISF, describes the current situation along the border.
“This is the dividing line between us and ISIS, ISIS militants are present in these residential houses,” said al-Yaqoubi. “Since the liberation of Iraqi territory, there has been no violation in these areas.”
Since the defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, the ISF have been carrying out patrols on the border with Syria to prevent any potential infiltrations by ISIS militants. In 2018, the Iraqi Government approved the construction of dozens of outposts on the border in addition to installing thermal surveillance cameras to monitor ISIS activity.
“We deal with moves if we sense the intentions of an attack. If our cameras detect armed men, we respond directly and forcefully against them,” said al-Yaqoubi, while showcasing video footage of ISIS militants trying to sneak in.
According to Hussein Ali, a member of the Iraqi border patrol, if ISIS activity is detected, the ISF inform the US-led coalition and the Iraqi Air Force so that they can conduct airstrikes to eliminate the threat. As a result, the Iraqi air force has conducted several airstrikes on moving ISIS targets on Syrian territory.
In addition to the surveillance patrolling of ISIS militants, the ISF are carrying out operations to sweep liberated areas to find ISIS sleeper cells. Naeem al-Husnawi, an official in the Iraqi Army, explained that the process of finding sleeper cells has not been as tough as anticipated due to local cooperation.
“We did not find any difficulties. At first, when we entered, we did not meet with the citizens. After that, we were able to communicate, and they began to provide us with sufficient and adequate information,” said al-Husnawi.
This has led to the destruction of several ISIS tunnels along the border towns.
“ISIS militants have used this place. When the drones or warplanes raided them, they used to hide in this tunnel,” said al-Husnawi. “This tunnel inside the house extends for many meters.”
Since the defeat of ISIS over a year ago, the ISF have shown their capability in not only defeating the militant group militarily but also in continuing to chase ISIS sleeper cells, winning both the hearts and minds of the people who cooperate with them to protect the country against terrorism.