June 24, 2015

Lean Forward in Iraq

By Michele Flournoy, and Richard Fontaine

The announcement this month that 450 additional U.S. trainers and support troops will deploy to Iraq represents a modest step forward in the fight against the Islamic State. But the move by itself will not turn the tide in a faltering effort. To succeed in the president’s ambition of ultimately destroying the Islamic State — or even to contain its gains or roll them back — a broader and more intensive effort is needed. 

The fall of Ramadi in Iraq’s western Anbar province was just the latest wake-up call for a Middle East reeling from the Islamic State’s advances. The group has seized the Syrian city of Palmyra, launched attacks in Saudi Arabia, established a presence in Libya and the Sinai Peninsula, and won adherents in countries as varied as Afghanistan and Nigeria. The U.S. government now estimates that some 22,000 foreign fighters have joined the Islamic State from 100 different countries.

Iraq is the locus of the current U.S. military effort against the Islamic State, and the administration’s strategy of working with and through Iraqi forces is the right one to achieve gains that are sustainable over the long term. But the execution of this strategy has lacked the urgency and resources necessary for success. A re-energized and more forward-leaning approach should combine the following elements:

Read the full article at The Washington Post.

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