Two years after losing their territory in the country, IS is back with a vengeance and is spearheading a new sophisticated insurgency. Lahur Talabany, who heads the Zanyari Agency, claims that the Islamic militants are now more skilled and more dangerous than Al-Quaeda. He told the BBC: “They have better techniques, better tactics and a lot more money at their disposal.
“They are able to buy vehicles, weapons, food supplies and equipment. Technologically they’re more savvy.
“It’s more difficult to flush them out.
“So, they are like Al-Qaeda on steroids.”
Mr Talabany, who lived in exile in London during the time of Saddam Hussein’s regime, said that the IS had completed its rebuilding phase.
According to the intelligence expert, the new IS no longer seeks to control territory, having learnt the lessons of its last defeat.
Instead, following Al-Quaeda’s tactics, the organisation has gone underground in Iraq’s Hamrin Mountains.
Mr Talabany explained: “This is the hub for ISIS [Islamic State group] right now.
“It’s a long range of mountains, and very difficult for the Iraqi army to control. There are a lot of hide-outs and caves.”
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He warned that the current unrest in Baghdad was acting as a recruitment sergeant for the terrorists, given the organisation’s ability to exploit the sense of alienation among their fellow Sunni Muslims.
Strained relations between Iraq’s government and the Kurdistan regional authorities in the wake of the Kurdish referendum in 2017 has also helped IS to further its agenda.
Since the referendum a vast area of no man’s land has materialised in northern Iraq between Kurdish Peshmerga security forces and their Iraqi counterparts.
Mr Talabany says that the only ones patrolling in this area are IS, a view backed up by Major General Sirwan Barzani.
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US Military in Iraq
The Kurdish Peshmerga commander says IS now have free reign across this swathe of uncontrolled territory.
He explained: “In the delta between the Great Zab and Tigris rivers we can say they are permanently there.
“There is too much activity from IS in the area close to the Tigris.
“Day by day we can see the movement of ISIS, and the activities.”
Kurdish intelligence reports suggest that IS is 10,000 strong in Iraq with between 4,000 and 5,000 fighters, and a similar number of sleeper cells and sympathisers.
Recently they estimate that about another 100 fighters crossed the border from Syria, including some foreigners with suicide belts.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighter
Mr Talabany says that the international community should be worried at recent developments.
He said: “The more comfortable they get here, the more they will think about operations outside of Iraq and Syria.”
The top US military commander in Iraq is confident that there will be no repeat of past history, when IS overran large swathes of the country in a matter of days.
Brigadier General William Seely, Commander of Task Force-Iraq, claimed that Iraqi and Kurdish security forces are better prepared than in 2014 when IS gained control of a third of Iraq and took Mosul, its second largest city, virtually unopposed.