Iraqi Prime Minister Fires Top Military General After ISIS Defeats

Abadi fires top Kurdish General ISIS
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sits before submitting his government for approval to parliament in Baghdad September 8, 2014. Hadi Mizban/Reuters

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi has fired the country's most senior military officer following the army's sub-par performance in the battle to oust ISIS from the country, his spokesperson has confirmed.

General Babaker Zebari, a Kurd who was the Iraqi military's chief-of-staff, has been removed from his position after serving in the role since 2004 as the Iraqi leader continues the restructuring of his military leadership which began when he came to power in September.

"General Babaker Zebari was removed from his post on the orders of Iraqi premier's order," read the statement released by Abadi's office.

It is believed that another Kurdish general, Anwar Hamad Amin, will replace Zebari, Iraqi military sources told Al Jazeera.

A senior official within the Kurdish Security Council, speaking on condition of anonymity to Newsweek, confirmed that the role of military chief-of-staff is "a post appointed to the Kurds so the successor will almost certainly be a Kurd".

The official added that Zebari has "personally requested [retirement] on several occasions" in years prior but these were all rejected.

Sajad Jiyad, Iraq expert and research director at the independent consultancy Integrity, says that while the move will not directly affect the Iraqi military's performance on the battlefield, the move is a symbolic decision made by Abadi to show he is serious about tackling the threat of Isis.

"In terms of the position, it is the most senior military officer. Obviously, the minister of defence is responsible for overall military policy against Daesh (an Arabic term for Isis)," he says, speaking from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

"[Zebari] has received some domestic criticism for not being a frontline commander. He was seen to be lethargic, he did not seem to be effective," he adds.

"I think it is symbolic of the changes that [Abadi] is making. I think he is definitely going about it the right way, making changes and bringing in hungrier people, ready to go out there and really impress and do well in this situation [against Isis]."

Although ISIS lost the city of Tikrit earlier this year, the terror group has continued to highlight the weaknesses of the Iraqi military, with units abandoning their posts in the strategic city of Ramadi last month, leading to ISIS taking control. The city is the capital of Anbar Province and sits just 105 km (65 miles) from Baghdad.

The capture of the city, which the United Nations estimates forced 25,000 people to flee their homes, dealt a significant blow to Abadi's campaign to oust ISIS from the country. Iraqi forces have now been forced to spread their attention to western, as well as northern, Iraq where the group also control the country's second city, Mosul.

A joint spring offensive between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen and US-led coalition aircraft to retake Mosul has been almost certainly delayed until 2016.

ISIS' march across Iraq, capturing these key towns and cities in Sunni-majority areas, has seen more than three million people displaced, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).