Don’t allow terrorists to regroup in Iraq

Robert A. Cohn is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the St. Louis Jewish Light.

By Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

he apparent routing of the Islamic State, or ISIS, in the Iraqi city of Mosul and a similar outcome expected in the Syrian city of Raqqa have been greeted with an almost eerie silence by all but a few media outlets.

Richard Engel, the longtime chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, was among the first Western journalists to report live from devastated Mosul, a once-great ancient city reduced to rubble resembling the bombed out cities of Europe after World War II. 

Otherwise, the decisive victory over ISIS, truly the most vicious and evil movement the world over, has been buried under the nonstop coverage of a meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer and other Trump campaign staffers.

But a few thoughtful pieces have provided excellent perspectives onthe defeat of ISIS in Mosul, which was accomplished with strong air and tactical support by American special operations forces. They looked at how the victory was accomplished and how to prevent yet another apparent military setback for the forces of tyranny from collapsing for lack of follow-through.

Previously, when the United States and its allies scored conventional military victories in Iraq against Saddam Hussein and later al-Qaida, plus the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the American and allied presence was drawn down in the crucial post-combat period. Those ill-considered moves allowed the terrorists to regroup and emerge even stronger.


One of the strongest pieces on the defeat of ISIS and how to ensure that the peace will be secured after the military victory was by the veteran journalist David Ignatius of The  Washington Post, headlined, “America can succeed militarily in the Mideast. ISIS’s defeat in Mosul tells us how.”

After nearly 20 years of slogging through a seemingly endless quagmire in the Middle East, it has become an accepted truism that the conflicts in the Middle East are just too complicated and intertwined to win militarily.

Ignatius writes: “Where massive U.S. ground campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade and a half became expensive exercises in frustration, the war against Islamic State has been far less costly in money and American lives— and also more successful. 

“Amazingly, over the past three years, just five Americans have been killed in action in Syria and Iraq, according to U.S. military.”

Ignatius, noting that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed victory in Mosul, writes that “pictures of the city showed a devastated wasteland of pulverized buildings. We may never know how many thousands of civilians lie under the rubble.”

If ISIS is capable of such unprecedented devastation against its fellow Muslims in Mosul, destroying civilian housing, hospitals, mosques and schools, what would Jerusalem look like if, God forbid, such a movement were in a position to threaten the city that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims?

In another Washington Post piece, Ash Carter, former defense secretary in President Barack Obama’s  administration, ponders “How to make the Islamic State’s defeat last,” as the piece is headlined.

Carter writes: “The credit for liberating Mosul should go to the brave Iraqi forces who carried out the fight, as well as to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.  But credit is also due to the superb execution by U.S. and coalition forces of the military campaign to train, equip and enable Iraqi security forces put in motion more than a year ago.”

Going forward, while Carter believes that “there is much to celebrate in the fall of Mosul, we also need to steel ourselves for the road ahead. The defeat of the Islamic State in Mosul and Raqqa is necessary but not sufficient.”

Carter warns: “Unless Iraqis are satisfied with what comes next, there will be a slide back to chaos and radicalism.” 

This is precisely what happened when the United States sharply reduced the number of military personnel in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Middle East is at a crucial crossroads with the decisive actions in Iraq. We must be prepared to maintain a sufficient number of U.S. troops in both nations who can work with Iraqis and Kurds to ensure that ISIS will not rise from the rubble of Mosul and Raqqa.       

There have been no dramatically staged surrender ceremonies, as there were after World War II.  There will be no massive parades to welcome home the brave troops.  But there is cause to savor this rare moment when the forces of evil in the war-torn Middle East have suffered a major setback.