Islamic State incursions highlight Iraq’s counter-insurgency challenges

As border forces scramble to stop IS fighters coming from Syria, a Pentagon assessment warns of systemic Iraqi military shortcomings - and the need for a long-term U.S. presence.
Islamic State incursions highlight Iraq’s counter-insurgency challenges
Paramilitary troops operating under the Iraqi government's al-Hashid al-Shabi (Popular Mobilization) program launch a mortar toward Islamic State militants north of Fallujah on July 6, 2015. (STRINGER/Reuters)

BAGHDAD - An influx of militants from Syria is fueling the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militant group's ongoing guerrilla war in Iraq - underscoring the extent to which Iraqi security forces are struggling to make a strategic transition from their victory in a conventional land war into a new phase of counter-insurgency.

Iraq's persistent security problems have caused the U.S. military to conclude it is "years, if not decades" away from being able to withdraw from the country without compromising its mission to defeat the IS group, according to a recent report from the Pentagon's Inspector General.

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