In the next few months, a mixed force of Iraqi Arab and Kurdish security forces — including various Sunni and perhaps some Shiite militia elements — will enter Mosul, clear the city of Islamic State extremists and then work to bring governance, stability and reconstruction to one of Iraq’s most complex cities and its province.
There is no question that the Islamic State will be defeated in Mosul; the real question is what comes afterward. Can the post-Islamic State effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq’s most diverse and challenging provinces?… Seguir leyendo »
Almost 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, and five years since the killing of the chief architect of those attacks, the United States and the world face a resurgent threat from terrorism. This stark reality should inform the national debate as we prepare to elect our next commander in chief.
As states across the Middle East have collapsed into civil war, Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic State have exploited the upheaval to seize vast swaths of territory, which they have used to rally recruits, impose totalitarian rule over the people trapped in these areas and plot attacks against the rest of the world.… Seguir leyendo »
The formulation of sound national policy requires finding the right overarching concepts. Getting the “big ideas” right is particularly important when major developments appear to have invalidated the concepts upon which previous policy and strategy were based — which now appears to be the case in the wake of the Arab Spring.
To illustrate this point, I have often noted that the surge that mattered most in Iraq was not the surge of forces. It was the surge of ideas, which guided the strategy that ultimately reduced violence in the country so substantially.
The biggest of the big ideas that guided the Iraq surge included recognition that:
●The decisive terrain was the human terrain — and that securing the people had to be our foremost task.… Seguir leyendo »
Many members of Congress continue to grapple with the nuclear deal with Iran — and so do we. Like us, the undecideds see its benefits: The deal would block the uranium enrichment, plutonium separation and covert paths to a nuclear bomb for the next 15 years. Compared with today, with an Iran that is three months from break-out capability and with a stockpile of 10 bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium, there can be little doubt that a deal leaves us far better off , producing a one-year break-out time and permitting the Iranians less than one bomb’s worth of material for the next 15 years .… Seguir leyendo »
For a leader who has been criticized for trying to rush out of wars to satisfy campaign promises, President Obama has been relatively resolute in Afghanistan. To be sure, he reduced U.S. forces there faster than some (including us) believed optimal starting in July 2011 — but only after having tripled the number of troops there during the first two years of his presidency. And the drawdown did not begin until he worked with coalition partners at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon to extend the mission from 2011 to 2014, a horizon extended again last year. Beyond that, while he declared an end to the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year, he also authorized Americans to continue to participate in numerous difficult and dangerous operations, including counterterrorism activities in support of Afghan forces, when needed.… Seguir leyendo »
Advocates of the effort to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran over its illicit nuclear activities have emphasized the benefits an agreement could bring by peacefully and verifiably barring Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Skeptics, meanwhile, have warned of the risks of a “bad deal,” under which Iran’s capabilities are not sufficiently rolled back.
Largely absent from the debate, however, has been a fuller consideration of the strategic implications a nuclear agreement could have on the U.S. position in the Middle East.
Such an assessment must begin by considering the consequences of lifting the majority of sanctions on Iran — and of Iran resuming normal trade with the world’s major economies.… Seguir leyendo »
The news out of Iraq is, once again, exceedingly grim. The resurrection of al Qaida in Iraq — which was on the ropes at the end of the surge in 2008 — has led to a substantial increase in ethno-sectarian terrorism in the Land of the Two Rivers. The civil war next door in Syria has complicated matters greatly, aiding the jihadists on both sides of the border and bringing greater Iranian involvement in Mesopotamia. And various actions by the Iraqi government have undermined the reconciliation initiatives of the surge that enabled the sense of Sunni Arab inclusion and contributed to the success of the venture.… Seguir leyendo »
Those of us engaged in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region feel Richard Holbrooke’s loss very deeply. Richard was a central figure in the United States’ overall effort, and his sudden death is a significant blow to it. However, his vision, tirelessness and determination will inspire all of us in the months ahead.
Very soon after he was appointed as the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard and I became close partners in the mission. That was the case when I was the commander of U.S. Central Command, and it continued after I took command in Afghanistan nearly six months ago. Both of us recognized from the outset that a great deal needed to be done to «get the inputs right» here – that is, to build the organizations, develop the necessary concepts and plans, and deploy the additional forces and civilians required.… Seguir leyendo »
Colin Cramphorn, a policeman who served with distinction in Northern Ireland among many other places, observed that while every location is different, all are nonetheless connected. He realised not only that local knowledge is critical, but that the fate of one location often depends on the destiny of another. This insight was almost John Donnesque, akin to his observation that “no man is an island”. It is a key insight for our security: no problem can be viewed in isolation.
The region under my command consists of 20 countries, from Egypt in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from Kazakhstan in the north to Yemen and the waters off Somalia to the south.… Seguir leyendo »
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker reported to Congress this week on the state of affairs in Iraq. Below is an excerpt from Crocker’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Looking ahead, Mr. Chairman, almost everything about Iraq is hard. It will continue to be hard as Iraqis struggle with the damage and trauma inflicted by 35 years of totalitarian Baathist rule.
But hard does not mean hopeless, and the political and economic progress of the past few months is significant. These gains are fragile, however, and they are reversible.
Americans have invested a great deal in Iraq in blood, as well as treasure, and they have the right to ask whether this is worth it, whether it is now time to walk away and let the Iraqis fend for themselves.… Seguir leyendo »