In an effort that simultaneously seeks to eschew responsibility for the situation on the ground and to define certain limits on the scope of the US war, the White House today declared itself to be unwilling to be “responsible” for the security situation in Iraq.
Though press secretary Josh Earnest emphasized the growing problem of foreign fighters flowing into Iraq, he insisted the war itself, at least on the ground, was up to the Iraqi government to fight and win.
This comes irrespective of Pentagon efforts to dictate exactly where and when Iraqi forces launch offensives, and to try to push them into cooperative relationships with pro-US tribal factions.
Given how eager the Pentagon has been to micromanage much of the war, at least when they think things are going well, the effort to put the current situation entirely on Iraq’s shoulders speaks to US efforts to try to shift blame on a war that is going increasingly poorly.
This has been a difficult needle to thread for the administration, however, which has admitted to being deliberately value about the scope of its involvement in Iraq, and seems to change its narrative depending on who the target audience is.
The efforts at narrative management are also making life difficult for Iraqi military leaders, who have to simultaneously face public tongue-lashings from the US and private reassurances that the failing strategy just needs a few tweaks.