America starts wars, it fights them, it prolongs them, but it no longer ends them. From Jason Ditz at antiwar.com:
With the last of the ISIS-held territory in Iraq recaptured, Iraqi officials are cheerfully proclaiming the war is over. Pentagon’s commanders, who recognize that this is the third “end of the Iraq war” in just 15 years, are trying to spin it as a new phase in the continuing war.
It makes sense for them to present it this way, US operations aren’t changing substantially. The troops are staying, which is unsurprising as the Pentagon was insisting from the start of this most recent buildup that the deployment was to be more or less permanent.
So US officials want the public to view this more as the next phase of Iraq. Pentagon officials are upbeat that they are going into the next phase, since ISIS did get mostly defeated, albeit at the cost of badly damaging or outright destroying multiple Sunni cities. As a practical matter, there isn’t much reason for confidence. Everything that derailed the previous US strategies in Iraq will still be a problem, only more so.
As with the brief “shock and awe” period giving way to a much less specific open-ended campaign, the defeat of ISIS will give way to a new round of mission creep, as officials come up with new goals for the war to justify its continuation. Another stability-centric set of missions for a Pentagon that’s been struggling mightily with that wherever they intervene.
A top priority is going to be re-training and building up the Iraqi military, of course. The US has already given Iraq an entire military’s worth of gear before, much of which was looted and lost in the ISIS fighting. High casualties among the best-trained fighters mean in many ways the US is starting from square one again, especially on gear, and Iraq’s economic woes mean they’re in an even worse position to pay for anything the US wants them to have.
Beyond that, Pentagon officials have made a stated goal of ensuring that ISIS doesn’t reemerge, and that some other faction doesn’t emerge to replace them. This is the most open-ended goal, obviously, as it could conceivably take forever. It’s also the least realistic goal, as a cursory look at the last 15 years shows.
To continue reading: Welcome to Iraq War 3½