Aaron David Miller writes: On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama will sit down with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to talk about the strategy to fight the Islamic State. The president will lay out what he wants Iraq to do, including making good on promises to empower Sunni militias and tribes. Indeed, there are many things the United States can do to counter the Islamic State: It can increase the number of special forces deployed in the region; assign U.S. troops as spotters and coordinators with forward-deployed Iraqi units; supply weapons directly to vetted Sunni militias; and increase airstrikes.
But what it cannot do is defeat the Islamic State and eliminate it from Iraq and Syria. Even if we finesse the problem and use Obama’s clever turn of phrase, to “ultimately defeat” ISIS, as our goal, we had better get used to a very long war. Even with such a war, victory as conventionally defined may still be elusive. Here is why. [Continue reading…]
Michael Knights writes: When U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opined that Iraqis “showed no will to fight” in Ramadi, he demonstrated a complete lack of empathy for the situation of the Iraqi combat troops on the front lines against the Islamic State.
America’s Iraqi allies are exhausted, and many units are barely hanging on. They’ve been demonstrating plenty their “will to fight” in the 12 months since Mosul fell, in the 16 months since Fallujah and Ramadi were overrun, and in the decade since Iraqi forces came to outnumber U.S. forces as the main security force in Iraq.
No U.S. service member serving in Iraq ever had to stay in the combat zone for as long as the Iraqi troops have. Many of these Iraqis have no safe place to go on leave, allowing no respite for years on end. No U.S. unit in recent history has ever had to suffer the chronic lack of supply and near-complete lack of good officers that Iraqi soldiers live with every day.
If the United States can totally misunderstand the conditions its allies are experiencing, it’s fair to ask what else it is getting wrong about how Iraqis are going to behave in the future. [Continue reading…]