Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi National Guard units will be formed within six months, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi pledged on Saturday at an interfaith dialogue conference in Baghdad.
“The government is committed to forming a National Guard force within 6 months,” the prime minister said, highlighting the importance of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “gang”.
Abadi was speaking at the National Dialogue Conference for Religions and Sects which was being hosted by the head of the Shi’ite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) party.
Abadi’s comments come just days after the Baghdad government tasked a special committee, led by Deputy Prime Minister Baha Araji, with completing the legal proposal to establish the new military force and to put it to a vote at the next cabinet meeting.
The formation of National Guard forces, which would fall under the authority of each governorate and comprise local forces, was part of a major agreement made between Iraq’s various political factions and directly led to the formation of the Abadi government. Prime Minister Abadi has come under increasing criticism, including from within his own government, for his failure to move forward with the project.
The Iraqi prime minister also called for “national reconciliation” at Saturday’s conference, which was attended by Iraq’s president, parliamentary speaker and other senior political figures. He warned that the country’s political forces must unite to combat ISIS.
Speaking at the same conference, Iraqi President Fuad Masoum said: “It is important that we move forward with national reconciliation as soon as possible to reinforce the foundation of the democratic transition in Iraq and strengthen Iraq’s social fabric and prevent the country from being destroyed by terrorism.”
At least nine people were killed in suspected ISIS bombings in and around the capital Baghdad on Saturday. A bomb exploded close to a market in the town of Madain, southeast of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 11, local authorities reported. A second blast struck near a string of car repair shops in central Baghdad killing at least three people and wounding 10. An army patrol, north of Baghdad, was also targeted on Saturday resulting in the deaths of two soldiers.
The latest violence in and around the capital has increased fears of an ISIS counter-attack after Iraqi and Kurdish security forces secured a number of victories over the jihadist fighters in recent weeks ahead of an expected push to liberate Iraq’s second city of Mosul.