Islamic state on the back foot in Iraq - Expert

Members of the Iraqi military near Mosul. (Reuters)
Members of the Iraqi military near Mosul. (Reuters)

A visiting expert says Islamic State is on the back foot in Iraq and is commending the help New Zealand military trainers in Camp Taji are providing ahead of the next big offensive planned in a few months.

A British expert in Middle East issues and former US military advisor, Emma Sky, told TV3's The Nation New Zealand's military trainers are a useful part of the international forces gearing up the Iraqi army for an attack on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, in the northern summer.

"The people of Mosul hate living under the Islamic State, and that is very clear. They hate it. You can see messages being sent out. How they live, I mean, it's terrible," says Ms Sky.

"I think the work that the New Zealand forces are doing in training Iraqi forces is good, but obviously that is just a small contribution in a much more complicated and bigger context."

She says Islamic State "is being pushed back", but at the root of the problem are Iraq's "broken politics, mismanagement, horrendous corruption. And unless those issues are resolved, this iteration of Islamic State can be crushed... [but] some of the Islamic State might rise up in the future, and the cycle will just continue."

Ms Sky, who's speaking at the Auckland Writers Festival this weekend, says history shows if the politics of a country are disrupted and a strong alternative is not put in place, havoc will ensue.

"The US didn't uphold the election results of 2010, when Iraq had a really good national election.

"Instead, the decision was taken to keep the incumbent in power, even though he wasn't the winner from those elections."

Ms Sky added once the US began withdrawing troops, this enabled the politics in Iraq to turn bad once again.

"[It] created the environment that allowed Islamic State to rise up out of the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq."

Ms Sky added the cycle of violence and extremism will continue if the grievances of the Iraqi people aren't dealt with.