In a quest to root out Islamic State group hideouts over the summer, Iraqi forces on the ground cleared nearly 90 villages across a notoriously unruly northern province. But the much-touted operation still relied heavily on U.S. intelligence, coalition flights and planning assistance.
While the planned U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by mid-January is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the campaign against IS remnants, there are concerns that further withdrawals could set the stage for another resurgence of the extremist group.
Although Iraqi forces have become more independent in combat missions, the country is reeling from ongoing anti-government protests, rampant corruption and political divisions that reach into the security apparatus. All of that means foreign support is still crucial.
There are already signs of a possible Islamic State comeback as the group exploits security gaps widened by a year of protests and the pandemic.