World & Nation

Iraqi militia commander brushes off U.S. call to disband

In this Jan. 9, 2016 file photo, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, center, attends a ceremony marking Police Day in Baghdad, Iraq.
(Karim Kadim / AP)
Associated Press

With the Islamic State group driven from nearly all of Iraq, U.S. officials have suggested that the thousands of mainly Shiite paramilitary fighters who mobilized against the Sunni extremists three years ago lay down their arms.

But Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who once battled U.S. troops and is now the deputy head of the state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces, says they are here to stay.

In his first extensive interview with a Western media outlet, he tells The Associated Press “the future of the (PMF) is to defend Iraq.”

In the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, al-Muhandis led a feared Shiite militia with close ties to Iran. His rise to the top ranks of Iraq’s security apparatus reflects the long, slow decline of U.S. influence over the country.