Iraq “sleeper cells” attack as US shifts focus

By July 28, 2021

Iraq (MNN) — Believers in Iraq voice concern as the United States announces military changes. U.S. President Joe Biden formalized an agreement on Monday with Iraq’s prime minister. There will be “no forces with a combat role by December 31,” this joint statement announces.

“The Iraqi people want the combat forces to stay because when they’re around, there won’t be terrorism problems,” an Iraqi believer named Umran* says.

“We’ve already been through this experience once. When the U.S. forces pulled out, the government fell and [in] entered ISIS.”

As described here by

American combat troops deployed in Iraq in 2003 with the goal of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and toppling dictator Saddam Hussein. Combat operations ended in 2010, and nearly all troops left the next year, only to have to return in 2014 to combat the rise of the Islamic State.

U.S. officials did not indicate whether the number of troops in Iraq will change by the end of 2021. Levels shifted under former President Trump from 5,000 to 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq. Troops focus on training and support missions.

Iraq’s Prime Minister told Associated Press his country no longer needed U.S. help fighting the Islamic State. Three days prior, Iraq’s Foreign Minister voiced the exact opposite.

“It’s just ‘empty words’ that the Prime Minister is saying to appease certain factions that want America out. A few days later, he may change his tune,” Umran says.

“It’s more [like a] political statement, rather than what the people believe they need or want.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

The latest announcement coincides with troop withdrawals in Afghanistan, where increasing attacks led to record-high civilian deaths. A similar pattern is emerging in Iraq. The Islamic State claimed last week’s Baghdad bombing, the deadliest attack in six months.

So-called “sleeper cells” continue to wage an insurgency against government forces. By targeting religious minorities – like the Shia communities where last week’s attack occurred – Islamic State militants hope to divide and conquer.

Iraqi Christians

In 2014, Christian homes in Mosul were marked with the Arabic letter “N” for Nazarite and “Property of the Islamic State.”
(Image, caption courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

“Most of the suicide bombings are happening in Shia neighborhoods,” Umran says.

“ISIS, or Dash, is trying to … to weaken the government, create divisions, [and create] chaos where ISIS can reign.”

In one recent attack, “they kidnapped various people within agricultural areas, in villages outside of the cities… [and] burned up their crop that was about ready to be harvested,” Umran says.

“They also made an attempt in Erbil in the north, which is in the Kurdish-controlled area, but that attempt failed. They were trying to attack and kidnap some Westerners.”

Find your place in the story

You may not know any world leaders, but you know the God who holds the nations in His hands. Pray for the Lord’s will to be done in Iraq. Pray “that God would change all of Iraq and all of the Middle East, and transform thoughts and hearts,” Umran requests.

Ask the Lord to give Iraqi believers wisdom and protection and a desire to stay in their homeland.

“There’s such a pull to run away, to flee to the West or other countries.”





Header image is a 2015 photo of Islamic State terrorists in Anbar Province, Iraq. (Wikimedia Commons)