“Now would be a very good time for U.S. President Barack Obama to think about what happens after Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, is liberated from the Islamic State.
U.S. military leaders are openly talking about an imminent offensive on a city of more than a million residents who are widely distrustful of the Baghdad government. It’s unclear whether the projected front-line troops for the invasion are up to the task; there seems to be no comprehensive plan for what happens after the fighting stops.
Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he did not think it was likely that Shiite militias or Kurdish forces would attempt to ethnically cleanse Mosul, a la Amirli. But he does feel there is a disaster in the making if a retreat by the Islamic State leaves a power vacuum. “The politics of liberating Mosul have to be just perfect or the end result is that Mosul quickly looks like Tripoli,” Knights said, referring to the civil war that has emerged in Libya since the U.S.-led coalition helped overthrow Muammar Qaddafi’s government.
The question now is whether Obama is about to make a similar mistake in Iraq. ”
Three Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, all veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq — were elected in November and now sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. More than a dozen House lawmakers who are veterans of those conflicts, both Democrat and Republican, sit on the House Armed Services Committee.
Quoting three of these veterans:
Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving Mr. Obama the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.
“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”
“One of the reasons I ran for Congress was to make sure we didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, of going into war without a clear strategy,” said Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii and an Iraq war veteran.
“If we just go in and solve their military problem, propping up the Iraqi military, I guarantee we’ll be back there solving it again three or four years down the road,” said Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, who served in the Marines in Iraq. A “diplomatic surge,” he added, would be a better strategy than sending in combat forces.”