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Research Report

Report of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq: Achieving Long-Term Stability to Ensure the Defeat of ISIS

Ryan Crocker
Nussaibah Younis
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2017
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 32
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)
    Ryan Crocker

    The Iraqi government, backed by the United States and its coalition partners, is on the brink of retaking all the territories once occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq. In this report, we offer a strategy for how the United States can build on this success to bring about a lasting defeat of ISIS and to secure US national security interests in Iraq over the long term.

    Over the course of 2016, the Task Force on the Future of Iraq brought together the world’s leading Iraq scholars, experts, and former policy practitioners to conduct a...

  2. (pp. 4-6)

    The Iraq policy of the United States has swung between hyper-ambitious interventionism and dangerous disengagement. The war in Iraq claimed the lives of almost 4,500 US servicemen and women, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in the process. It also cost the United States $815 billion in direct costs, and could end up costing some $1.7 trillion. There can be no question of returning to this level of intervention.

    When the United States withdrew its military forces from Iraq in December 2011, it also abandoned intelligence collection partnerships, slashed civilian and military training and reconciliation programs, and downgraded its...

  3. (pp. 7-14)

    The best way to defeat violent extremism is to support the evolution of an effective, responsive, and legitimate Iraqi government. Violent extremism flourishes in communities that feel marginalized and oppressed by the government. Tackling this driver of radicalization is key to achieving a permanent victory against ISIS in Iraq.

    An effective US strategy in Iraq would require that the United States and its partners place good governance at the heart of an ongoing advisory and assistance mission in Iraq. Effective governance involves the professional delivery of public services, the predictable application of the rule of law, and transparent and accountable...

  4. (pp. 15-17)

    In the long term, only the development of strong, capable, and professional Iraqi Security Forces can prevent the Iran-backed elements of the Popular Mobilization Units from expanding their influence in Iraq and enable the state to establish and maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.

    Almost every senior Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish political official we met with expressed a strong desire for the United States and coalition forces to remain in Iraq beyond the liberation of Iraqi territory from ISIS. They recognize that recapturing territory from ISIS will not signal the defeat of the group, but rather...

  5. (pp. 18-19)

    There is a fundamental lack of trust and good faith in the relationship between Baghdad and the KRG, with the KRG believing that it is victimized by Baghdad, and Baghdad seeing itself as exploited by the KRG. But a continued deterioration of the relationship between Baghdad and the KRG is neither in their interests nor does it serve the interests of the United States.

    There is no question that most Iraqi Kurds want an independent state. However, there are significant disagreements among Kurds over how and when that should take place. There is substantially greater consensus that the process should...

  6. (pp. 20-20)

    As Iraq draws closer to ending ISIS’ territorial hold on the country, it will be tempting to declare victory and move on. This would be a catastrophic mistake. ISIS is already reverting to its old playbook by mounting mass-casualty attacks on civilian targets across Iraq. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, ISIS will have the opportunity to regenerate and gradually restore its capacity to threaten US interests in Iraq, across the Middle East, and perhaps even in the United States. Achieving a permanent defeat of ISIS requires that the United States maintain a robust military, assistance, and diplomatic presence...