by WorldTribune Staff, July 14, 2017
The commander of U.S. troops in Iraq is cautioning against being overly optimistic following the defeat of Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul.
Iraq’s government has much work to do if it is to ensure “ISIS 2.0” doesn’t arise in Mosul and elsewhere in the country, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said.
“If we’re to keep … ISIS 2.0 from emerging, the Iraqi government is going to have to do something pretty significantly different,” Townsend said.
“They’re going to have to reach out and reconcile with the Sunni population, and make them feel like their government in Baghdad represents them.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who represents the Shia State of Law coalition, presides over one of the world’s few Shia governed states. Iraq is 57 percent Shia and 40 percent Sunni and also has a large Sunni Kurdish citizenry.
Following the liberation of Mosul, Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television: “I announce from here the end and the failure and the collapse of the terrorist state of falsehood and terrorism which the terrorist Daesh announced from Mosul.”
“We have another mission ahead of us, to create stability, to build and clear Daesh cells, and that requires an intelligence and security effort, and the unity which enabled us to fight Daesh,” Abadi said.
U.S. President Donald Trump, issued congratulations to Iraq, as did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called the fall of Mosul a “critical milestone” in the war against ISIS.
Townsend said he expects the U.S.-led coalition presence to continue in Iraq even after ISIS is fully defeated. The Iraqi government, the U.S., and other coalition governments are interested in keeping a force there, he said.
“This fight is far from over,” Townsend said. “So I wouldn’t expect to see any significant change in our troop levels in the immediate future because there’s still hard work to be done by the Iraqis and the coalition.”