As the ISIS takeovers of western Iraqi provinces drag on, exiled provincial officials are less and less interested in waiting on the Iraqi military to retake the region, and more interested in taking matters into their own hands.
Nineveh provincial officials, led by Governor Athil al-Nujaifi, say they are trying to form a militia of local fighters to defeat ISIS, and are also planning for running the provincial capital of Mosul if they succeed.
The hope among the mostly Sunni officials is that they could get enough US airstrikes backing their local force to make a major move against ISIS. It isn’t clear, however, how popular the provincial officials were in the first place, and leaders say portraying their force as “liberators” is a key to getting Mosul residents to abandon ISIS.
That’s being presented as a reason to form the militia instead of relying on the Iraqi military, since most of Sunni Arab Iraq has an extremely negative view of the Shi’ite central government and the military.
That’s only part of the problem for provincial officials, as the Iraqi military simply hasn’t been able to retake Nineveh Province, let alone Mosul. Recruiting a local force would mean not only convincing them that the provincial government is the lesser of two evils compared to ISIS, but also that it wouldn’t mean a return to Shi’ite dominance.