Pro-gov’t forces reluctant to withdraw from Anbar following IS defeat – source

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Anbar ( – Paramilitary troops of al-Hashd al-Shaabi are reluctant to withdraw from Anbar province following the declaration of victory over Islamic State (IS) militants across Iraq last year, a security source was quoted as saying Monday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told al-Quds al-Arabi that the pro-government troops, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs), were “planned to leave Anbar after eliminating all IS cells in the province last November, but they did not.”

He pointed out that the presence of those troops in Anbar is no longer necessary as there are enough army and police forces, who can face any possible threat by IS militants in the liberated areas.

Despite the crushing defeat of Islamic State in December, the PMFs reject to leave liberated areas under the pretext that there are still explosive bombs and booby-trapped houses there.

Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of volunteer Shia paramilitary forces, actively backed the Iraqi government’s military campaign against IS since 2014, when they were formed upon a top Shia clergy edict to counter the militant group.

PMFs won official recognition as a national force late 2016, becoming under the command of the prime minister, who defended the troops against domestic and foreign accusations of committing human rights violations.

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