Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton stressed that it was his belief that the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria and Iraq will require prolonged coalition involvement. He added, however, that he did not believe such a mission would take years.
The Pentagon disagrees.
Briefing reporters on the strikes inside Syria conducted by coalition forces on Monday night into Tuesday morning, Lieutenant General Bill Mayville confirmed that those strikes were “only the beginning.”
Mayville detailed the Pentagon’s strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, which will focus primarily on Iraq before shifting to the Syrian theater. “Look at what we’re trying to do regionally,” he said. “We are focused first in Iraq because we have a partner in Iraq to work with; the Iraqi Security Forces, the Iraqi government.”
“We are trying to disrupt their support bases while we enable in Iraq the Iraqi Security Forces — with the help of partners — to dislodge and ultimately remove ISIL from Iraq,” he added.
“Could this take years?” NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski asked.
“I would think of it in terms of years, yes,” Mayville replied.
Mayville was not referring to the administration’s strategy of vetting, extricating, arming, training, and reinserting Syrian rebel forces into northern Syria to fight ISIS (and Assad), which the administration admits will take years. Mayville is only referring here to the campaign to degrade and dislodge ISIS from Iraq.
The Pentagon’s current approach to the fight against ISIS in Iraq is enjoying limited successes. As Allahpundit observed on Monday, The New York Times revealed that the Iraq campaign is at a stalemate.
“After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government’s forces have scarcely budged Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines,” The Times reported. “Behind the government’s struggles on the battlefield is the absence or resistance of many of the Sunni Muslim tribes that all sides say will play the decisive role in the course of the fight.”
Without a strategy to shift Sunni tribal allegiances away from ISIS and back toward a representative government in Baghdad (a feat achieved by coalition forces under the previous administration), it is unclear how success in Iraq can ever be achieved.