Sarah Leah Whitson writes: Six months and 16,000 airstrikes into the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, with less than 1% of the territory it held in Iraq recovered, an honest accounting leads to only one conclusion: The U.S.-led strategy is failing.
With the effort focused almost exclusively on a military defeat of the armed group, also known as ISIS, neither the Iraqi government nor its anti-ISIS allies – Iran included – have seriously addressed the reforms and accountability for abuses that could earn back the support of Iraq’s Sunni population. The fragmentation of Iraq’s fighting forces into unaccountable sectarian militias responsible for horrific abuses against Iraqi civilians is part of Iraq’s slide into a broken state that no amount of foreign aid and military intervention will be likely to put back together.
Despite the grievances underlying initial Sunni support for ISIS, the anti-ISIS coalition has focused almost exclusively on an airstrikes campaign, with Shi’a militias supported by Iran as the primary boots on the ground.
The stunning takeover by ISIS of a massive swath of Iraqi territory testified to the alienation of Sunni communities. Many Sunnis welcomed ISIS fighters as “liberators” from the sectarian oppression of government forces. But let’s not forget how Iraq got to that point – with the U.S.-led Iraq war that displaced a dictator but resulted in an abusive occupation and destructive civil war, leaving more than a million dead. [Continue reading…]