With the ceremonial folding of a flag, U.S. forces in Iraq officially ended their involvement in major ground operations targeting ISIS. This marks a milestone in the battle against extremists in the region, and now U.S. forces can pack their bags and hand over responsibility to Iraqi security. But it also begs another question: now what?
Jeremi Suri, professor and Mack Brown distinguished chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, says the move to exit Iraq is consistent with President Donald Trump’s stated desire to reduce U.S. military entanglements in the Middle East. As military operations wind down, Trump prefers to engage adversaries with missile strikes, like those aimed at Syria last month.
“We’re clearly demobilizing our forces on the ground,” Suri says. “And in that sense, it’s somewhat ironic that Donald Trump’s policy in the Middle East looks strikingly similar to Barack Obama’s.”
Suri says ISIS failed in its goal to establish a state of its own. “What is not clear is that we have defeated the sources of terrorism in the region,” he says.
The Taliban, al-Qaida and remnant of ISIS still pose a threat.
“In a strange way, the more we do, the more of them are created,” he says “because our presence triggers and inspires people to join these terrorist groups.”
Suri says former ISIS members are likely to join other groups, or to form new terrorist organizations.
“The only solution to terrorism in the region is effective governance,” he says “and we have proven that we cannot do that. We must find ways to support entities on the ground that can provide functioning governance.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.