The U.S. and its allies overthrew long-reigning dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, leaving a massive power vacuum that has caused extreme instability in Iraq for nearly two decades. Since 2015, Iraq has been engaged in a military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to recapture territory lost in the western and northern portions of the country. More than 2 million people remain internally displaced and nearly 9 million remain in need of humanitarian assistance. In late April 2018, the U.S. military officially disbanded the command overseeing the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq, declaring an end to major combat operations against the group. Sectarian tension continues to plague the region and could possibly expand into a proxy conflict among various international groups.

Primary Terrorist Presence in Iraq – 

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a militant Sunni movement that rose out of Iraq, and has now expanded with territories in western Iraq, eastern Syria and Libya, with various branches throughout Africa as well. The group is operational in the rural and desert areas of central and northern Iraq. The group has been listed by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization since December 2004, and although the group recently lost its last territories, it is still considered a major threat.

  • Ansar al-Islam (AAI) is headquartered in northern Iraq with its largest presence in Kirkuk, Tikrit and Mosul.

  • Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN) is a militant offshoot of the Iraqi Baath political party and was listed as a foreign terrorist organization in September 2015. Its resurgence added to the instability in Sunni areas, fueled mistrust in Shia areas and facilitated the rise and entrenchment of ISIL, particularly in border regions of Ninewa province (in northern Iraq, where Mosul is located). Today, ISIL and JRTN appear to be working together to end external influence in Iraq and overthrow the government of Iraq.

Other Groups Engaged in the Conflict:

  • More than 5,000 U.S. service members remain in Iraq as part of a train, advise, and assist mission bolstered by NATO troops, to help train the Iraqi military and stabilize the country (CFR).

Human Rights, Humanitarian and Other Crises:

  • In their battle against ISIS, Iraqi forces summarily executed, tortured, and forcibly disappeared hundreds of ISIS suspects.

  • Mosul’s Faisaliya prison is notorious for the torture of detainees by Iraqi officers.

  • Approximately 2 million people are internally displaced and 6.7 million people in Iraq will require humanitarian assistance in 2019.

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