Rex Tillerson: US forces will stay in Iraq after defeat of Islamic State

Joel Gehrke — Washington Examiner March 22, 2017

U.S. military forces will remain in Iraq after the military defeat of the Islamic State in order to avert another resurgence of the terrorist organization, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Wednesday.

“The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS,” Tillerson at the State Department.

By leaving the troops in place, Trump will avoid what many Republicans regarded as President Obama‘s mistake of failing to secure an agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011. But the decision carries the political risk of continuing a military commitment to Iraq that Trump supporters might find wearisome.

Tillerson emphasized the soldiers will not be engaged in “nation-building,” but described a process of “stabilization” and “normalization” that would lead to the development of a strong “civil society” in the war-torn region.

“Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support,” he said. “The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort.”

Tillerson hopes that the anti-ISIS efforts in Iraq can provide a model for destroying the organization in neighboring Syria. The more-complicated political and military situation in that country has delayed the development of a comprehensive plan, however.

“While a more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together, I can say the United States will increase our pressure on ISIS and al Qaeda and will work to establish interim zones of stability through ceasefires to allow refugees to go home,” Tillerson said during remarks before a meeting of the global coalition to defeat ISIS.

Tillerson paired that plan with a call for allies to provide more help to the United States, which he said bears 75 percent of the military burden and 25 percent of the cost for humanitarian support to the region.

“The United States will do its part, but the circumstances on the ground require more from all of you,” Tillerson told an assembly of leaders from the 68 countries participating in the anti-ISIS coalition. “I ask each country to examine how it can best support these vital stabilization efforts, especially in regard to contributions of the military and financial resources.”

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