At the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S. and its military allies needed to stay engaged in Iraq even after driving the Islamic State out of Mosul. Otherwise, he said, the terrorist group could once again gain ground.
Carter said he was expecting coalition forces to hand ISIS a devastating defeat very soon.
“But there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated,” he said. “We’ll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and ISIL’s attempts to relocate or reinvent itself. To do so, not only the United States but our coalition must endure and remain engaged militarily.
“In Iraq in particular, it will be necessary for the coalition to provide sustained assistance and carry on our work to train, equip, and support local police, border guards, and other forces to hold areas cleared from ISIL,” he said.
Clearly, the U.S. cannot afford to make the same mistake twice. ISIS was only able to gain a foothold in Iraq because of President Obama’s failure to bring the war to an appropriate conclusion. As badly as he and every other American citizen wants to see our troops come home permanently, we can’t sacrifice our national security for the sake of instant gratification. There is always a price for that kind of rash decision-making, and we’re seeing that price manifested in Iraq, Syria, and, indeed, in our own communities.
Of course, in a little more than a month, those decisions will no longer be Obama’s to make. Donald Trump will take office on January 20, and his agenda will then shape our fight against ISIS both in the Middle East and here at home. By his side will be Carter’s Defense Department successor, Marine Gen. James Mattis. Trump is expected to nominate Mattis officially on Monday.
At the forum, Carter had nothing but praise for “Mad Dog.”
“I’ve worked with Jim for many years, he’s a friend, and I hold him in the highest regard,” Carter said.