While the fight to defeat Islamic State militants makes gains, most recently with the Iraqi government’s liberation of Mosul, the United States and its partners are intensifying global pressure against the terrorists and rallying support for more resources for post-conflict stabilization efforts.
“As the battle unfolds over the coming weeks and months as we did in Mosul, our stabilization planning will move in parallel,” said Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State militants, on Thursday.
“We have identified 100 critical stabilization sites in and around Mosul, which will be the immediate focus for de-mining and restoration,” McGurk said, adding the liberation of the Iraqi city is “not the end of the war.”
Three African countries join coalition
Senior officials from about 30 key stakeholders in the global coalition to defeat IS met Thursday in Washington, following two days of talks with the full 72-member coalition. The focus — accelerating efforts to drive the jihadist fighters out of the remaining areas that the group holds in Iraq and Syria.
Among them are the three newest members from Africa — Chad, Niger and Djibouti.
U.S. officials say they have requested each coalition member to identify new areas in which to contribute.
“To date as a coalition, the U.S. has provided nearly three-quarters of the military resources required to support our partners on the ground,” said McGurk.
Humanitarian aid for Iraq announced
On Thursday, USAID announced an additional $119 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq, bringing the U.S. total to more than $1.4 billion since 2014. USAID says the contribution will go toward additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, improved sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection for Iraqis who have been displaced. The U.S. is also providing medical assistance, including ambulances, medicine, and continued support for three field hospitals that are treating trauma patients.
Atlantic Council senior fellow Jasmine El-Gamal told VOA that as Islamic State militants lose more and more territory, including in Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, it will be more difficult for Washington to use traditional means to combat IS fighters, such as airstrikes and bombings.
“We are going to have to move more and more toward non-traditional means like combating them online, over social media, putting a lot more resources toward law enforcement capabilities, to prevent lone wolf and spiral attacks,” said El-Gamal.
Some experts argue that the defeat of Islamic State will not end U.S. involvement in Middle East conflicts. Such a development may, in fact, lead to increased American engagement.
US focus a concern
Elliot Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations,said the U.S. must prevent a “new Iran-Hezbollah-Shiite-Russia coalition” from filling the spaces after the jihadi group is driven out.
“It must be resisted on the ground, through the use of force by a coalition that must be built and led by the United States,” said Abrams in an article published in Foreign Policy.
Middle East Institute Senior Fellow Charles Lister said the current U.S. strategy in Syria is only focused on fighting Islamic State militants, but not directly challenging the legitimacy of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which he says is the main cause of instability that leads to extremism.
“It seems the U.S. remains just as focused on treating symptoms rather than root causes,” said Lister.
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