January 10, 2017

Mosul is Pivotal in US Counterterrorism Strategy

Long-term consequences could abound if the US does not strike a balance in Iraq.

By Daniel Heesemann

A coordinated attempt by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Kurdish Peshmerga forces supported by US-led coalition air power to liberate Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, from control of the Islamic State (IS) began in October 2016. The outcome of the battle, for better or worse, is certain: it will mark a turning point in the global counter-IS campaign. Furthermore, it could lend credibility to the often-debated effectiveness of the “light footprint” model of operations, which emphasizes regional partner leadership over US intervention when faced with a security crisis.

The United States has faced sharp criticism for its “lead from behind” strategy, which many point to exacerbating regional civil wars by preventing US forces from intervening and curtailing these conflicts. While the strategy clearly does not fit every situation, Mosul could serve as proof that it does work—on a level much larger than successful “light footprint” operations, including those against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Colombia.

In a region where US policy has been chided for “half measures,” adhering to the “light footprint” model would not only demonstrate a commitment to the strategy’s success, but more critically form a strong base for future improvements in Iraq as the next US administration seeks to prevent a reemergence of extremism. This should include not only military operations, but governance and peacebuilding support amongst various stakeholders in northern Iraq, namely the Sunni tribes, Kurdish people and the Shia militias who help to liberate the city.

Read the full article in the Fair Observer.

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