Baghdad: With the Islamic State group's "caliphate" seemingly nearing its downfall in Iraq, the country's security agencies are preparing for a different fight against the militants, shifting away from ground offensives to a focus on intelligence work, surgical airstrikes and a higher level of cooperation with the West.
The new strategy is designed to counter an expected move by the Islamic State group away from holding territory and back to a more classic role as a dispersed, underground terror organisation after it loses Mosul, its last major urban center in Iraq.
Already, the militants are laying the groundwork for a strategy of hiding in remote areas, carrying out attacks in Iraq and abroad and resorting to organised crime to bankroll operations, intelligence and counter terrorism officials said.
The immediate priority for Iraqi officials is to limit the number of militants who escape Mosul to go into hiding, they said.
Longer term, they said, the fight against post-Mosul IS can only succeed if the border with Syria is secured and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad addresses longtime grievances by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority that fueled support for the militants.
Six officials four from intelligence agencies and two from the Interior Ministry's counterterrorism agency described the planning in interviews with The Associated Press.
They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the agencies' preparations.
"Tough days await our intelligence and security agencies when they start fighting a different Islamic State," predicted Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security analyst.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last weekend that US and international forces will need to keep a presence in Iraq even after IS's fall "to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated."
"We'll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and ISIL's attempts to relocate or reinvent itself," he said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.
Updated Date: Dec 09, 2016 14:51:04 IST