ISHM: February 9 – 15, 2018


Key Takeaways:

  • Much Anticipated Kuwait Reconstruction Conference Falls Short of Goals – 76 countries and nearly two thousand private industry representatives gathered in Kuwait February 12-14 for the much anticipated International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. Despite the wide attendance, the New York Times characterized the results of the conference as a “devastating blow for the Iraqi government,” who had hoped to garner financial pledges and investments to meet the estimated US$88 billion it needs to rebuild after years of ISIS devastation. Less than half that amount, US$ 30 billion, was offered, mostly in the form of loans, lines of credit, and private sector investment pledges from Iraq’s neighbors and the World Bank. The Trump administration pledged no funds, instead carrying through with a new policy of encouraging U.S. private investment rather than providing financial assistance from the U.S. government. (For more on Iraq’s readiness for investment and the consequences of reconstruction funding shortfalls, read our recent analysis.) more…
  • Pentagon Presses NATO to Ramp Up Training Missions in Iraq – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that the security bloc will build an academy for military training in Iraq and that NATO defense ministers will decide on the size and scope of their long-term involvement with training Iraqi troops in July. The U.S. has pressed NATO to take on a greater share of this responsibility, a move welcomed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (as previously reported in ISHM). more…
  • IED Clearing in Mosul to Take “Over a Decade” – The UN Mine Action Service announced this week that nearly two-thirds of the explosive hazards present in western Mosul are buried under an estimated 11 million tons of debris and that clearing operations to identify and remove unexploded ordnance in that half of the city will take “over a decade.” Pehr Lodhammar of UNMAS said that “IEDs are not new, what is new is the complexity we see…and the numbers that [ISIS] manufactured…on an industrial scale.” more…
  • Electoral Commission Extends Party Affiliation Deadline – On February 8, the Independent High Electoral Commission extended the deadline for political party and coalition alignment registration until February 15. The extension allows for more behind-the-scenes deal-making and pledges of support among party leaders ahead of the May 12 national elections. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is attempting to attract support for his Victory Coalition while Vice President Nouri al-Maliki of the State of Law Coalition used the extra time to meet with head of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakim. more…
  • Turkey, PKK Militants Exchange Fire in Dohuk – On February 13, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants reportedly attacked a Turkish Army post on the Turkish-Iraq border in Dohuk Province and Turkish forces returned fire. Casualties sustained by the two sides were not reported. The following day, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “Iraq must be cleared from terrorist groups, among them the PKK” and that a military campaign against PKK elements along the Qandil Mountains between Iraq and Iran is necessary. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.

Much Anticipated Kuwait Reconstruction Conference Falls Short of Goals

On February 8, Reuters reported that the United States (U.S.) did not plan to contribute any money at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. Washington instead is encouraging private-sector investment and counting on Iraq’s Gulf neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, to pour in money as part of a rapprochement with Baghdad meant to reduce Iranian influence in Iraq. Asked if the U.S. government would be making an announcement of contributions at the conference, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “I‘m not aware of any announcements that we will be making. About 2,300 members of the private sector will also be joining … and talk about ways that they can help facilitate the large-scale reconstruction taking place in Iraq.” Jeremy Konyndyk, former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, said that by not contributing to reconstruction, especially in combat-ravaged areas dominated by Sunnis, the Trump administration could help set the stage for a new insurgency.

On February 9, Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Mahdi al-Alak announced the end of all preparations for the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, which will last for three days from February 12 to 14. The official delegation of Iraq included a number of ministers and officials in the relevant authorities of the federal government and the Kurdistan region, as well as the governors of all provinces. The agenda would include three main axes, “reconstruction, investment, [and] support for stability and peaceful coexistence.” The conference will be accompanied by three specialized conferences. The first of which concerns the reconstruction and the details of documents on direct and indirect damages and the efforts required to improve the economic and service situation. The second conference would discuss the support of stability and response to the current needs, in the presence of a large number of charities and civil society organizations of Iraq, Arab and international official entities. The third conference, according to the statement, “will be attended by representatives of hundreds of companies.”

On February 9, the Iraqi government’s National Investment Commission published a list of 157 projects it would seek investment for at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq from February 12 to 14. “Some of these projects were about rebuilding destroyed facilities like Mosul’s airport, while others were new investments to strengthen and diversify the economy away from oil,” said an economic advisor to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Three rail projects were on the top of the list: a 500-kilometer (311 mile) line from Baghdad to Basra in the south, estimated to cost US$13.7 billion; a line from Baghdad to Mosul in the north estimated at US$8.65 billion; and a US$8 billion metro for the capital. Rebuilding Iraq after three years of war with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) will cost US$ 88.2 billion, with housing a particularly urgent priority, Iraqi officials told Reuters at the Kuwait conference.

On February 9, the humanitarian organization CARE International called on all stakeholders to make reliable financial commitments to support internally displaced people as well as host communities. According to the United Nations, over US$ 550 million will be needed to provide humanitarian aid for 3.4 million people in Iraq who are most vulnerable in 2018.

On February 10, an Iraqi Member of Parliament (MP) in the State of Law Coalition, Alia Nassif, claimed that the Kuwait conference had turned from a conference of donor countries into an investment conference, indicating that the Iraqi people would not forget what it described as the “retaliatory role” played by Kuwait in harming their country in the past. She said, “It is ironic that Kuwait, which has drained Iraq’s resources, starving the Iraqi people through the receipt of unfair and arbitrary compensation seeks to invest today. Kuwait has acquired Iraqi land and controlled Iraqi waterways and corridors and built and expanded the ports to fight us economically.”

On February 10, Member of Parliament from Ninewa Province Farah al-Sarraj described the representation of Ninewa Province as “lean” at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. She called for “involving” the people of the liberated areas in local and international dialogues to rebuild their areas, and stated that “while we were waiting for the donor conference in Kuwait eagerly to contribute to finding the necessary funding for the reconstruction of the devastated areas, especially Ninewa Province, which has a population of more than 10% of the population of Iraq, we find that the conference has allocated only 22% of its projects in favor of this province.” Al-Sarraj called for “a clear message to the Iraqi government that the people of the liberated areas should be involved in local and international dialogues and understandings to rebuild their areas and have a clear and influential role in this regard.”

On February 10, the Government of Japan announced a US$ 2 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Iraq in support of the Fund’s reproductive health (RH) and gender-based violence (GBV) programs across the country. The Government of Japan’s contribution comes at a time where women and girls still face considerable challenges in accessing GBV and RH services. The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that 8.7 million people would be in need of humanitarian assistance in the course of the year, of whom approximately 2 million would be women of reproductive age in need of reproductive health and gender-based violence response services. The Government of Japan has been a key partner to UNFPA, contributing a total of US$ 9,212,800 million over the last three years in support of the Fund’s interventions and services to women and girls across Iraq.

On February 11, the President of the United States Institution of Peace (USIP), Nancy Lindborg, and the Middle East Program Director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, said of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq that any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist. Recently, a USIP team spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders. Lindborg said in the interview that “Unlike most donor conferences, this one will emphasize generating commitments from the private sector.” Hamasaeed also stressed that “Iraq is a patchwork of communities—Sunni and Shia Muslims, ethnic Kurds, and smaller religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis,” so reconciliation is crucial along with the reconstruction process.

On February 11, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) announced that Japan would fund US$ 1.5 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) project assisting families. This support from the Japanese government will benefit 3,000 people in conflict-affected Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah al-Din Provinces. Vulnerable families in areas recently retaken from the ISIS will soon have the means to produce fresh and nutritious vegetables thanks to generous support from the Government of Japan.

On February 12, the Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that “the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq is a key opportunity to confirm the commitment of the international community to support Iraq after the victory over terrorism and to activate the partnership of the countries of the world with Iraq to implement the commitments of realizing common interests.” He added the proceeding of the conference will last for three days with the participation of more than 70 countries and 1850 companies of different nationalities and more than 3000 participants, including about 200 Iraqi businessmen and investors from home and abroad. The Iraqi delegation participating in the conference will have a working agenda on three main topics: reconstruction and investment, supporting stability in the country, and promoting peaceful coexistence among the different segments of Iraqi society. The first day of the conference will deliberate and assess the overall damage caused by the war and issues that need to be addressed, as well as projects to support stability, community reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.The second day tackles procedures for creating a suitable environment for investment, through the showcasing of 212 projects in all sectors of the Iraqi economy, including projects in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. On the third day, the conference would end with a final statement issued by the organizers and participants, in addition to the renewal and provision of new financial support to Iraq, consisting of grant programs, development loans, as well as private sector investments.

On February 12, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that the European Union has contributed an additional US$ 58.96 million to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), which finances fast-track initiatives to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS. This brought the European Union’s total contribution since 2015 to US$ 73.8 million.

On February 12, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo made a press statement at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq on the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of displaced Iraqis. The Food and Agriculture Organization in Iraq called for urgent funding to assist 1.6 million people through the Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme 2018-2019 at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

On February 12, Carla Brooijmans, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Head of Mission for Iraq made a statement after a meeting of aid organizations in Kuwait about humanitarian responses in Iraq. MSF currently works across Iraq in Erbil, Diyala, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Sala ad-Din, Anbar, and Baghdad Provinces.

On February 13, the United Nation Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) published a report about the “Clearance Mission” in Iraq, considering it as a “tipping point” between “post conflict” and a “normal future” for Iraq. The report stressed that none of the reconciliation and reconstruction progress would be possible in Fallujah and Mosul without infrastructure first being cleared of the explosive threats posed by debris of past conflicts and devices left by retreating ISIS forces. Thus allowing the Government of Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Community to carry out the necessary rehabilitation work is fundamental. As of December 2017, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)-directed teams had searched nearly 34 square kilometers along power lines and cleared 580 explosive devices. In 2018, the mine action sector requires US$ 216 million to respond to the rehabilitation efforts of retaken areas and critical needs in access to basic and municipal services, education and health of returning civilians. In the Reconstruction and Development Framework (RDF) presented at the Kuwait Conference, the Government of Iraq will prioritize the clearance of explosive hazards to enable the reconstruction of Iraq and support of accountable governance, reconciliation and peace building, social and human development and economic development. A program director at UNMAS, Pehr Lodhammar, pointed out that the destruction of Mosul left an estimated 11 million tons of debris and two-thirds of the explosive materials were believed to be buried under rubble.

On February 13, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi said that Iraq needs US$ 4 billion for new investments in its downstream oil industry, outlining plans to expand refining capacity over the next several years at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. He also said Iraq planned to boost its crude oil production capacity to 7 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2022, from 5 million bpd at present.

On February 13, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met a delegation from Germany during the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, noting that the German delegation would provide funding for a number of projects in Iraq. German Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller made an offer to start strategic projects in Iraq during the next two months, according to a statement from the Informational Office of the Prime Minister. The statement noted that “These projects include fixing the electric power, creating thousands of job opportunities, training thousands of young Iraqi professionals by the best German companies, as well as establishing vocational training centers in Iraq.”

On February 13, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM US) extended Iraq a $3 billion credit line to help rebuild the country in post-ISIS conflict. The EXIM US and Iraq’s Ministry of Finance signed a memorandum of understanding that will set the stage for future support to Iraq in several areas, including transportation. Tillerson added that, “The United States will remain the closest ally of Iraq, which has passed through important stages in its history and we support a stable Iraq, and support Abadi in the fight against corruption.”

On February 13, the World Bank published a report saying that Iraq needs US$ 17.4 billion for its housing sector and US$ 4.5 billion for its education sector for reconstruction purposes. During the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, the Planning Minister Salman al-Jumaili said that Iraq needs US$ 23 billion in the short term and US$ 65 billion in the long term, while noting that the damage to the oil and energy sectors are the highest. The Iraqi government has embarked on some reconstruction projects, but has not been able to achieve 1 percent of what Iraq needs.

On February 13, The New York Times published a report, calling the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq a “humiliating blow for the Iraq government,” who cannot afford the post-conflict reconstruction. According to this report, although the conference was attended by dozens of potential donors, it was estimated that only US$ 4 billion out of the requested US$ 88 billion would be pledged, mainly by Gulf nations, with the Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis and Qataris all pledging around $1 billion each, with no contribution from the United States. The lack of funds from the U.S. is in line with the Trump Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2019 unveiled Monday (February 12), which proposed eliminating much of the nation’s foreign aid and reducing the State Department’s overall spending by a third while increasing the Pentagon’s budget by US$ 195 billion in the next two years. In Iraq, those priorities seem to mean that the United States will leave the task of rebuilding Iraq’s cities to other nations and the private sector. According to the report, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other diplomats hoped to compensate for the shortfall by calling for private sector investments, much as President Trump has done for his own infrastructure plan in the United States.” But Sami Al-Araji, the head of Iraq’s National Investment Commission, said no investments had been generated so far from the companies, saying that “I am not expecting any contracts to be signed.” The relatively small amount being pledged to Iraq can potentially sabotage the achievement of defeating ISIS. “While we have seen military progress against ISIS, the question that looms is whether we are prepared to protect those battlefield gains and prevent bad actors from stepping into the void,” read a letter signed by 151 retired senior military commanders on Sunday (February 11). The shortfall can also undermine the partnership of the U.S.-led international coalition in counter-terrorism,with the U.S. holding its support for its foremost ally in battles against ISIS; and it threatens the political future of the current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who earned most of his credits from fighting against ISIS.

On February 14, the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop released a statement that the Australian Government will provide US$18 million over three years to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support stabilization efforts in Iraq. In this media release, Australia recognized the importance of the stabilization of Iraq as essential to the permanent destruction of ISIS and preventing its resurgence. ISIS and its ideology remain a global threat and Australia is committed to its defeat. UNDP’s Financing Facility for Stabilization has committed more than US$ 770 million for over 1,600 projects across Iraq and is working effectively to create the conditions for people to return home.This funding is part of Australia’s $100 million Iraq Humanitarian and Stabilization package announced in April 2017. Australia has provided and committed more than US$613 million to the Syria and Iraq crises since 2011.

On February 14, UN Secretary-General António Guterres formally announced the launch of the Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. The two-year Recovery and Resilience Programme is designed to fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction and help ensure that people see tangible improvements in their daily lives at the start of the reconstruction process, rather than waiting years to benefit from large-scale infrastructure projects and structural reforms. (See more in last week’s ISHM.)

On February 14, Kuwait Conference organizers announced that a total of US$ 30 billion in pledges were made on the last day of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. The biggest pledge came from Turkey, which announced US$5 billion in credit to Iraq, while Kuwait’s ruling emir said his country would give US$ 1 billion in loans and US$ 1 billion in direct investments. Saudi Arabia pledged US$ 1.5 billion while the Kuwait-based Arab Fund said Iraq would receive US$1.5 billion in infrastructure aid in coming years. Qatar pledged US$ 1 billion. The United Arab Emirates pledged US$ 500 million, as did the Islamic Development Bank. Germany pledged EU€ 500 million (approximately US$ 617 million) and the European Union EU€ 400 million euros (approximately US$ 494 million). Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assured investors at the Kuwait conference that the government would not stop fighting corruption.

On February 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi held a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir about their cooperation during the victory against ISIS. During the meeting, Jubeir announced that under the instructions of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, they would allocate US$ 1 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq and US$500 million to support Saudi exports to Iraq.

On February 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim signed two projects totalling US$ 510 million on the sidelines of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. The two projects along with the ongoing US$ 750 million to the Emergency Operation for Development program and other planned commitments, will increase the World Bank’s total commitment to Iraq to US$ 4.7 billion, compared to US$ 600 million four years ago. The increased Bank commitment will help support immediate restoration of education and health services, rebuilding important roads and bridges, and rehabilitation of electricity and water systems. The ongoing emergency reconstruction projects have already created thousands of jobs for Iraqis and the new projects are expected to create millions more.

On February 14, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said that the amount allocated on the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq “will not fill the need” during the final statement of the news conference. He also stressed that the amount will contribute to the reconstruction.

On February 14, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah delivered his closing speech for the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, announcing the conclusion of the work of the conference collecting funds worth US$ 30 billion for Iraq. He stressed during the speech that “the participation of 76 countries, regional and international organizations, 51 development funds, 107 regional and international financial institutions and international non-governmental organizations, and 1,850 private sector representatives” showed the consensus and commitment of the international community to ensure a secure and stable future for Iraq.

On February 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed the intention of his administration to remove all obstacles for foreign investment, as well as eliminate all forms of corruption and bureaucracy that would increase investors’ concerns about the feasibility of their projects. He also stressed that the return of displaced persons was voluntary and that the rehabilitation of basic services with rapid projects in the country will encourage displaced people to return to their cities. It is noteworthy that Abadi announced on January 2 the launch of the national document for the reconstruction of Iraq, requesting about US$ 100 billion for reconstruction.

On February 14, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced at a press conference that his country would provide US$ 5 billion in facilities and loans for the reconstruction of Iraq. During the conference, a number of observers confirmed that the commitment of donor countries to provide financial support for Iraq depends on the seriousness of the Iraqi government in the fight against corruption and the existence of a favorable investment climate. Donors were worried about Iraq’s investment climate, which is currently suffering from both the deterioration in its infrastructure from fights against ISIS, and the energy crisis that would threaten the country in the coming years.

On February 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. They discussed the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and the entry of Russian companies to invest in Iraq. Dvorkovich conveyed greetings from President Putin and the Russian Prime Minister and Russia’s full support for Iraq reconstruction.

On February 14, the United Arab Emirates announced support for the reconstruction of Iraq with US$ 500 million in addition to the private sector investments in the Al Rasheed Camp (valued US$ 5 million) and the investment of DP World in developing the Umm Qasr Port, which is valued at US$500 million. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash explained that the support includes US$ 250 million via the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development for infrastructure projects, US $100 million to help UAE electricity companies fund projects in Iraq, US$ 100 million to support and promote UAE exports, as well as US $ 50 million to support the humanitarian efforts of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), and its charity projects in the areas most affected by ISIS. The United Arab Emirates added that there were US $5.5 billion in private sector investments in Iraq.

On February 14, the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah announced that Kuwait would earmark US $1 billion in loans to Iraq and will commit to another US $1 billion in investments. Sabah said in his speech during the closing speech of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, “The size of the international mobilization on the official level and public and the private sector is a recognition of the world’s magnitude of the sacrifices suffered by Iraq in fighting terrorism and a reward from international community for Iraq’s confrontation.”

On February 15, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC), in consultation with the Clusters and Advisory Board (AB) issued the Allocation Strategy to set the Iraq Humanitarian Fund (IHF) funding priorities for the first Standard Allocation 2018. In this strategy, a total amount of up to US$ 34.55 million is available for this allocation. This allocation strategy paper outlines the allocation priorities, which is mainly focused on supporting highly vulnerable populations in return areas, principled returns, and maintaining the services in internal displaced people camps. This report also included the strategic direction and the timeline for the allocation process.

Pentagon Presses NATO to Ramp Up Training Missions in Iraq

On February 10, Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali met with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her delegation. According to a statement release by Hayali, the German delegation congratulated Iraq’s armed forces on the liberation of Iraqi territories and the defeat of terrorists. They also announced that the German government is ready to train and equip the Iraqi army, as well as provide all the support needed in the military field and in the reconstruction of the liberated areas.

On February 12, the U.S. Department of Defense requested US $1.4 billion for FY 2019 to train Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition. The requested budget for the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF) for 2018 amounted to US $ 1.8 billion, while the 2017 request was US $ 1.5 billion. According to the Defense Budget Request Overview, US $ 850 million is budgeted for Iraqi training activities and equipment and US $ 300 million for training Syrian forces. The remaining US $ 250 million will be used for Iraqi border security to counter ISIS.  

On February 13, during the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria was far from being completed. He was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that “the end of major combat operations does not mean that we have achieved the enduring defeat of ISIS,” adding that “ISIS remains a serious threat to the stability of the region, our homeland and other parts of the globe.” Tillerson also pointed out that the instability of living conditions for communities in Iraq and Syria could create the occasion for a return of ISIS and that the U.S. and other countries must work together to counter foreign fighters leaving Iraq and Syria, ISIS financing networks, and its online recruiting.

On February 14, British Secretary of Defense Gavin Williamson said that the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS would not allow ISIS to return to victory in Syria or Iraq. While entering a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting, Williamson told reporters that “the most important thing to be discussed at the NATO meeting is the war against the extremist group.”

On February 14, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg promised a response in regards to the U.S. call for the allies to expand the mission in Iraq in support of the reconstruction of the country. Stoltenberg said in a press statement that “it is immensely important to stabilize the country after the end of the combat operations and we must obtain peace.” He added that “NATO Defense Ministers are expected to plan a bigger training mission during a meeting in Brussels on Thursday and they will make a final decision in the forthcoming July.” Stoltenberg will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the Munich Security Conference later this week and he declined to talk about the number of troops in Iraq. However, he said that the training might include the Ministry of Defense and the removal of mines.

On February 15, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO decided to open a school and an academy for military and security training in Iraq. He said that the goal is to increase combat capabilities of Iraqi forces, but did not specify where these facilities would be built. He added that NATO will continue training Iraqi forces, as it is dangerous to leave Iraq now because of the possibility of the return of extremists.  

IED Clearing in Mosul to Take “Over a Decade”

On February 9, the Media Security Center said that an armed attack was carried out in a barber shop in Khanaqin, 113 kilometers northeast of Baqubah in Diyala Province. Seven people were killed and two were injured. The governor of the Khanaqin District, Mohammed Mulla Hassan, reported that all the victims were Kurds from the clan Al-Zarkush.

On February 9, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) released a statement saying that the 29th Brigade troops repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) attack on the border between Iraq and Syria. According to the statement, the attack was still ongoing.

On February 10, Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji commented on the barber shop attack in Khanaqin, saying that “the law is our responsibility and we will strongly apply it to criminals and we will not allow any person or entity to bypass it under any pretence or claim.” He added that the Ministry of the Interior was present in Khanaqin and “will work to strengthen security and fight criminal phenomena.”

On February 10, the Ministry of the Interior Media Office released a statement saying that an armed group opened fire on a house in the Djalil District, 74 kilometers north of Baghdad. Three of the six family members in the house were killed and the other three were wounded.

On February 10, an anonymous source with the Khanaqin Police said that they arrested three suspects for the barber shop attack of February 9 in Khanaqin. The anonymous source added that the suspects were not Khanaqin residents and that the investigation was still ongoing.

On February 11, the Center for Security Information issued a statement concerning the armed attack that targeted a house in the Djalil District, south of Salah ad-Din Province. The statement read that the security forces launched a wide search operation to find the perpetrators and that they opened an investigation to find out about the circumstances of the incident.

On February 12, Abu Ali al Basri, General Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Falcon Intelligence Cell, issued a statement saying that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s supreme leader, was seriously injured. Basri said, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was injured in one of our operations in July last year. He was directly wounded and he was taken to the hospital. He still suffers from the wound.” He added that “the injury was caused by a Russian airstrike that targeted a meeting for Baghdadi in Syria. We have all the details and information about the wound as well as his health condition. However, revealing the details will negatively affect us.”

On February 14, Pehr Lodhammar, a senior program manager at the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) declared that the destruction of Mosul left an estimated 11 million tons of debris and that two-thirds of the explosive hazards present in the city are thought to be buried under the rubble. He said during a conference in Geneva that “we estimate that it is going to be over a decade until western Mosul has been cleared. The density and the complexity will not allow this clearance to be completed within months or even within years.” Last year, UNMAS removed 45,000 explosive hazards and 750 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) across Iraq, of which 25,000 were removed in western Mosul alone. Last week, they discovered an ISIS factory to produce IEDs with mortar rounds, artillery ammunition, hand grenades, rockets, and 250,000 electronic components. In Mosul’s High Court, the deminers found 44 suicide vests and belts, nine active IEDs, 64 IED switches, 231 mortar rounds, 48 rockets, 72 air-dropped improvised munitions, 202 fuses and 109 grenades. Once that was cleared, they found stacks of property ownership deeds, which will help returning citizens prove the ownership of their houses. Speaking of IEDs, Lodhammar said that “IEDs are not new, what is new is the complexity we see and the density, and the numbers, and that they have manufactured ammunitions and IEDs on an industrial scale. That is new, and the fact that they have also manufactured conventional ammunition.”

Electoral Commission Extends Party Affiliation Deadline

On February 8, the Electoral Commission announced that it would be extending the deadline for political party and coalition alignments until February 15. A member of the Commission called on coalitions to “expedite the submission of lists of candidates during this period of time so that the Commission [can carry out] procedures relating to candidates according to the law.”

On February 8, the Iraqi Homeland Party led by Member of Parliament (MP) Mishan Jabouri joined the Iraqi National Accord led by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi. According to Jabouri, “we resolved our decision and I and my brothers in the National Party decided to join the national coalition led by Dr. Iyad Allawi because we found what we aspire to see in Iraq and the Iraqis a homogeneous country and an equal state in which citizens share opportunities and duties.” This merger came after Jabouri’s split from Hadi al-Ameri’s coalition, the Conquest Alliance.

On February 10, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki stressed the need for reforms in Iraq “because of the imbalance of quotas and sectarianism.” Maliki called on professors to educate their students about issues facing the country so that students could become informed voters.

On February 13, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki met with the head of the National Alliance, Ammar al-Hakim. The two discussed the upcoming elections and the challenge of building the state. Hakim stressed that “the upcoming elections are crucial and will move Iraq from instability to stability.” Hakim added that communication between the coalitions was critical in order to reach a state of political calm.

On February 15, recently suspended MP Massoud Haider withdrew his name from the Gorran Party list in the Iraqi national Parliament. Haider did not give a reason for withdrawing from the list, only stating that he would “focus during the next phase on serving the people of all components.”

Turkey, PKK Militants Exchange Fire in Dohuk

On February 13, Tariq Jawhar, adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), announced that Kurdish militias are ready to support their peers in Afrin, Syria at various levels. He said that “we are waiting for the Kurdish parliamentary delegation to return from Afrin and to present its report to the Parliament. In light of this, we will determine the type of support we will provide, whether it will be logistical, political or medical.” In January 2018, the Turkish military launched the military operation “Olive Branch” against members of the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Syrian city of Afrin, 65 kilometers north of Aleppo.  

On February 13, eyewitnesses saw Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants attacking a Turkish army post on the Turkish-Iraqi border, in northern Dohuk Province. According to a witness statement, the attack was carried out by PKK members near the village of Kraby, in the Zakho District. The witness also added that the Turkish forces responded to the fire and that it is not clear how many casualties the two sides suffered.

On February 14, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the launch of a military operation against the members of the PKK in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is “an important matter.” Cavusoglu told the reporters that “Iraq must be cleared from terrorist groups, among them the PKK.” He said that carrying out a military operation against components of the PKK in the Qandil Mountains was also important, adding that PKK elements are present in the provinces of Dohuk, Sulaimania, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Ninewa.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

02/14/2018Amil District, 8 kilometers southwest of Baghdad02
02/13/2018Rashdiya, 20 kilometers north of Baghdad02
02/13/2018Radwaniyah, 18 kilometers southwest of Baghdad15
02/12/2018Qaim, 275 kilometers north of Ramadi12
02/12/2018Saidiya, 11 kilometers south of Baghdad10
02/12/2018Latifiya, 45 kilometers south of Baghdad04
02/12/2018Barwana, 44 kilometers north of Baquba02
02/12/2018Al-Azim, 100 kilometers north of Baqubah11
02/11/2018Dujail, 65 kilometers north of Baghdad26
02/10/2018Baaj, 160 kilometers west of Mosul30
02/10/2018Yusufiya, 38 kilometers southwest of Baghdad13
02/10/2018Arab Ejbur, 17 kilometers south of Baghdad02
02/09/2018Nahrawan, 42 kilometers east of Baghdad12
02/09/2018Abu Ghraib, 30 kilometers west of Baghdad13


Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.

Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

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