Militia groups have taken the lead in the city of Tikrit as the fight to expel Islamic State extremists continues. However, in protest to US-led airstrikes, many militiamen have begun pulling back from the battle, according to The Washington Post.
“We did not ask for them and we have no direct contact with the Americans,” Hadi al-Amiri said as reported by The Guardian. Al -Amiri heads an umbrella group that encompasses all Shia militias.
In theory, the United States coordinates support with the Iraqi government and army. However, around Tikrit, militia units outnumber the Iraqi army by as much as a 6 to 1 ratio.
Many of the militia groups are openly hostile to America, and this has become a problem when trying to coordinate airstrikes. Some militia members have even stated that they would fire upon American aircraft attempting bombing runs in Tikrit.
Many militia leaders have reacted with anger to US-led airstrikes in Tikrit, a campaign that the militias on the ground were spearheading. Members of the militia have demonstrated a greater willingness to engage in combat than the Iraqi army.
Several compounds that housed various militia groups now stand empty as they have withdrawn to nearby towns. The Iraqi government is trying to negotiate the militia’s return, but right now, the burden has shifted to the army.
For the most part, the Iraqi army has been excluded from the battle for Tikrit. While some officials optimistically say that this is the Iraqi army’s opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities, there have been concerns about the ability of the Iraqi army to lead the fight, after their previous disastrous defeats by ISIS.
Last summer, tens of thousands of Shiites volunteered to fight in the militia because they felt it was their religious duty. Since then, the Iraqi military has become dependent upon the manpower supplied by the militia.
Lt. Gen. Abdulwahab al-Saidi, an Iraqi Special Forces commander said, “Right now, we need them, and honestly, they’ve achieved lots of victories. If we were a complete army, I’d say otherwise.”