[In an attempted diversion from the ongoing Mosul offensive, several dozen ISIS terrorists, organized in Fedayeen cells attacked Kirkuk today.
It is unlikely that this was a sleeper cell; it is more likely that this was a typical “Fedayeen” attack, like those experienced periodically by Pakistan. If Pakistan and India cannot prevent such sneak attacks with all of their power, then they must be unpreventable. Remember that the original Fedayeen worked for Saddam Hussein. Many of his original fighters joined al-Qaeda In Iraq, which became Islamic State.
This form of terrorism is called guerrilla warfare, whenever we do it:
“A burst from a Tommy-gun swept the [unsuspecting enemy] card players and drinkers at the bar. German drinking songs turned to shouts of horror. Those who weren’t killed or wounded tried to make for the doors or windows. They were mown down before they had gone a yard.”–Chronicling the birth of guerrilla warfare in World War II ]
The surprise and deadly ISIS attack on the city of Kirkuk today is a dangerous indicator of what could happen in Mosul even after it is liberated by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Kirkuk has been under Kurdish Peshmerga control for more than two years and ISIS positions are many miles away from the city. Yet a group of around 30 fully armed militants managed to stage a terrifying attack on several government, police and security buildings in Kirkuk.
At a power station in Dubis they killed ten engineers and workers. They detonated car bombs and suicide vests.
As of writing this article, clashes between security forces and some of the militants are still going on.
Looking at what happened in Kirkuk today, it is not hard to imagine a similar scenario in Mosul a few months or years after has ISIS been driven out. In Mosul an ISIS comeback would be even easier as the militants know the lay of the land and enjoy a degree of support.
In Kirkuk the militants who attacked today did not have any hope of staying there long, or taking control of the city or building a foothold. They had only come with a message: that ISIS was still strong and far from degraded or defeated. They knew they were going to be killed as they indeed were.
But in Mosul they could come back and stay.
In Kirkuk there was an immediate response to the attack. Security and police as well as anti-terrorism forces were quick in deploying to every corner of the city and hunting down the militants wherever they found them. Within minutes hundreds of civilians also took up arms and started looking for militants who were believed to be roaming around parts of the city.
But in Mosul this might not be the case and we saw how a small number of militants completely overran the city in June 2014. They had a welcoming hand in some of the Mosul residents and no resistance from the rest.
The Iraqi army can retake Mosul from ISIS with help from Peshmerga forces and coalition air power, but they could as easily lose it back as they have done a few times since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Each time it was a small number of militants who took Mosul from the Iraqi police and army. Once it was the al-Qaeda, once Ansar al-Sunnah and once ISIS. And the Iraqi government actions have only made this scenario easier by arresting Sunni men on charges of Baathism or membership in terrorist groups.
And even now as the Iraqi army is struggling to take a few villages outside Mosul, the government in Baghdad has already issued an arrest warrant for Nineveh’s former governor.
It was exactly these kinds of actions against Sunni leaders and population that made ISIS a welcoming sight in Mosul.
Therefore, Kirkuk should be a wakeup call to Iraq and its coalition partners that unless they have a solid plan for the city’s administration and security, Mosul will always be vulnerable and ISIS could always come back.
Video footage coming out of Kirkuk today of many Kurdish civilians turning the streets into a battlefield against ISIS shows how important it is when a local population is against an extremist group. This sense of love for one’s city and opposition to militant groups should also be built in Mosul.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.