When I left Iraq in 2009 I was feeling good about its future. However, in my final thoughts post I gave a bit of a warning
Is the War Against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) Won?Some bloggers who never were in Iraq and some who were have declared victory. I meanwhile see AQI as lying on the ground, bleeding from all orifices.While near AQI is near death anyone who says they are defeated is wrong. The greater command network of AQI is destroyed so now AQI is more or less a grouping of quasi-independent regions that relay on themselves for logistical support. Right now most of the fighting against AQI is done by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. These organizations still need the help Coalition Forces can supply including advanced targeting and large, overwhelming force.
Sadly we did not follow through. The Syrian Civil War allowed al Qaeda in Iraq (renamed the Islamic State of Iraq and later Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) to regroup. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki used the courts to steal the promising results of the 2010 elections. The Sunni militias that helped us defeat AQI/ISI were not properly paid and heroes like Colonel Faruq in Haditha were ignored.
Now in a series of blitzkerg attacks ISIL now has combined their war against the Syrian Arab Republic (Assad-regime), their war against the Syrian anti-Assad rebels, and their war against Syrian Kurds with their renewed war against the Iraqi government. ISIL is moving units back-and-forth across the Syrian-Iraq border because it considers all these wars the same and so should we.
We should consider them the same war not only because ISIL does but so does the other side: the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria-Iraq axis. In fact, the main reason ISIL has been stopped 100 miles north of Baghdad is because they are now fighting Iranian-trained, Shia militias full of veterans of the American and Syrian wars. Iran and the Iraqi Shia militas will pull units from Syria to fight ISIL in Iraq.
Meanwhile, I am stuck here thinking about the Iraqis I served with trying to figure out if they are alive or, maybe even, fighting in Sunni militias against the Government of Iraq. Elsewhere, Mosul has most likely lost its entire Christian population due to death and the exodus in the past 72 hours.