Iraq increases training of Hashid paramilitary officers

Rising investment of military resources signals enduring power of politically connected armed groups.
Al-Hashid al-Shabi fighters prepare to board buses to attend an officer training academy in January 2023. (Photo credit: Popular Mobilization Authority Media Office)

BAGHDAD - Iraqi paramilitary forces are significantly expanding their use of Defense Ministry facilities for officer training — an investment of military resources that highlights the extent to which they are solidifying their position within the country's security apparatus.

The new initiative could provide clues about the future direction of the al-Hashid al-Shabi forces (also known as Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF), a government-run umbrella organization that arms and funds a wide range of paramilitary groups divided into scores of numbered brigades, the most powerful of which have close ties to Iran and Iran-backed political parties.

Some observers see the officer training as a potentially positive step toward strengthening the chain of command and government control over the groups. Others worry that, by enhancing the Hashid officer corps, the government is accelerating a trend that could eventually result in the country's army being eclipsed by an inherently politicized and unstable set of armed groups.

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