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ISIS advance puts former American foes, US on same side

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A former mastermind of a deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq does not see America as an enemy in present-day Iraq.  (Source: CNN) A former mastermind of a deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq does not see America as an enemy in present-day Iraq. (Source: CNN)
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(CNN) - The United States military advisers in Iraq recognize that militias are key to the defense of Baghdad from ISIS forces.

Many of those militia fighters are veterans of the insurgent battles against U.S. troops a few years ago, which worries U.S. military planners.

They include the mastermind of a sophisticated 2007 deadly attack on American soldiers.

He’s a man who now views his battle against ISIS as guerilla warfare.

With its own forces struggling, the Iraqi government is increasingly relying on Iranian-backed Shi'a militias to hold the front against ISIS - especially around the capital of Baghdad.

That reliance has the U.S. concerned.

And with U.S.  advisors on the ground and surveillance overhead, it’s created an indirect alliance of foes, among them the Aah, Asaib Alh al-Haq group, who in 2007 carried out one of the most sophisticated attacks against U.S. forces.

Disguised as American soldiers, driving American vehicles and speaking English, the assailants caught U.S. troops at the provincial council building in Karbala unaware.

One U.S. solider was killed at the site, four others kidnapped and later slain.

The mastermind of the attack was Qais Khazali, along with his brother Laith, and Hezbollah operative Ali Moussa Daqdouq.

In his first interview with an American network, Khazali says Aah is not the enemy of the American people, but they were fighting an occupation.

And he boasts of the tactical battle between Aah and the American military.

"In the beginning a small IED was able to destroy an American Humvee. But then the Americans up armored the Humvees, so we developed an IED that could blast through the armor,” Khazali said.

And while for now they may be fighting against a mutual enemy, the U.S. is worried about the control Shia militias now have.

And the possibility that ISIS has infiltrated Iraqi forces, dangers U.S. advisers could face.

Khazali said despite the presence of American advisers, American drones overheard and that the Iraqi government has asked for U.S. airstrikes, he sees the soldiers differently this time around.

"We don't look at the U.S. as an occupying force anymore, this is over,” he said.

Iraq doesn't need more fighters he says, it has plenty, but they need experience.

There are both U.S. and Iranian advisers on the ground.

And both nations, among others, flying their drones overhead.

The war with America trained Aah in unconventional warfare. But now, Khazali says, they are up against an enemy that fights just like they do.

"The American military is a classic military. So it is easy to fight against them using guerrilla warfare, it is easier than fighting al-Qaida. Guerilla warfare is more difficult and complicated and requires a lot of endurance and specific tactics,” he said.

Aah fighters have been to the Syrian battlefield and faced ISIS there.

But here they are better equipped, and with their Iraqi allies an even stronger enemy.

Iraq needs all the help it can get, as uncomfortable and bizarre as these alliances are for the Americans.

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