Anti-IS paramilitary troops to form aviation force, with alleged army blessing

Iran-backed paramilitary troops fighting the Islamic State in Iraq have unveiled plans to form an aviation force with the support of the Iraqi air forces.

The Popular Mobilization said on its website that the fore was going to form an aviation force, citing official sources within the organization as saying that the Iraqi army’s air force had expressed “a desire to accomplish the best results in that respect”.

The force will handle “all aerial affairs” of the Popular Mobilization, said the report. It added that the idea for an aviation division came to the forefront as the need grew for an air force carrying mobilization personnel wounded in the battles against the Islamic State to hospital, as well as “other purposes”, as the statement put it.

Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of more than 60 mainly Shia fighting groups, was formed in 2014 as per an edict by Iraq’s top Shia clergymen to counter the Islamic State when the group took over a third of Iraq. It own official recognition as a national force in 2016, and is believed to enjoy generous financial and training support from Iran.

The group has been actively engaged in the Iraqi government’s war against IS, and has recently claimed full control over Iraq’s borders with Syria, but has been operating only on ground with air support from Iraqi army warplanes.