- The American general commanding foreign coalition forces in Iraq and Syria has hailed pro-Iraqi government fighters with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as “remarkably disciplined” in their operations against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast at his headquarters in Baghdad on Monday, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said the forces, better known by their Arabic name Hash al-Sha’abi, have made great achievements in their military action against Daesh in the city of Tal Afar, located 63 kilometers west of the city of Mosul.
Townsend said Hash al-Sha’abi forces have kept off Takfiri militants from traveling back and forth with supplies or information.
“The PMU did advance more rapidly than we expected and they’ve done a good job,” he said.
Townsend commands the US-led coalition that has been hitting purported Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq since 2014. The forces under his command are collectively known as Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR).
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the American commander of foreign coalition forces in Iraq and Syria
Fighters from the PMU have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast, and north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.
On November 26, the Iraqi parliament approved a law to give full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.
The law went into force on Monday, and Ahmad al-Assadi, a spokesman for the popular forces, said it would help further professionalize the pro-government forces.
Abadi has tasked Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters with the liberation of Tal Afar.
On Monday, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters made progress in the Wadi Ayn al-Hathan district west of Mosul, and repelled Daesh attacks. At least 13 terrorists were killed and three vehicles belonging to them were destroyed during the operations.
Iraqi troops, supported by fighters from Hashd al-Sha’abi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, have been in a joint operation since October 17 to retake the northern city of Mosul from Daesh terrorists.