Fearing the risk of a Sunni backlash in the towns north of Baghdad, the Iraqi government has ordered Shi’ite militias to withdraw from the front line towns.
This was a necessary move, since the militias have been responsible for revenge massacres against Sunnis they believe are pro-ISIS, as well as kidnapping and ransom schemes in the region.
At the same time, the Iraqi military insists they want to keep using those militias in combat against ISIS, and if they were honest about it, the militias are doing most of the fighting in many of these battles.
Whether those militias will willingly continue to fight alongside the Iraqi military for control of Sunni towns, only to be kept out of those towns if they are secured, remains to be seen, but it’s clear that some of these militias, while couching their operations as a holy war against ISIS, are really in it for the extortion of locals, and probably won’t be in it if they can’t do that.
With the Iraqi military unable to win any battles on its own, the government has come to rely on the militias, and that has given them a large amount of immunity. The government must now find a way to stop their abuses without losing them as allies.