US Commander: Troops in Iraq Face More Threats From Shi’ites Than ISIS

General accuses militias of extorting locals in Nineveh

Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the US deputy commander in Iraq and Syria, downplayed the threat posed by ISIS within Iraq, arguing that Shi’ite groups, both “Iran-controlled” or otherwise, are the real threat.

“We taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shi’ite militia groups,” Grynkewich said. He also accused the militias, part of the Iraqi government’s security forces, of extorting locals in Nineveh Province.

While it’s no real secret that the US isn’t on the best of terms with the Shi’ite militias, the general’s comments greatly downplayed ISIS, which he described as being in “survival mode,” raising the question of why US forces are even in Iraq, when it was supposed to be an anti-ISIS operation.

Instead, Grynkewich is trying to rebrand US operations in Iraq as primarily about Iran and “all of their proxies” in the wake of the US assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. He said the US could expect a continued harassment in Iraq from these groups, which again raises questions about why the US is in Iraq, since it was certainly never meant to be about fighting Iraqi groups that they are accusing of being “Iranian-leaning.”

Ironically, having dismissed ISIS as all but irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, Grynkewich also cited the ISIS fight as the reason the US needs to resume security cooperation with the Iraqi government. Again, it seems he’s gone out of his way to undercut the case that this is a war that even needs fighting, while still falling back on it as a justification.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.