Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford says that the Pentagon is considering a “long-term commitment” to operations in Iraq, intending to keep troops in the country after the ISIS war, with an eye toward keeping Iraq’s military propped up.
Exactly what form this would take remains to be seen, as the US already has thousands of ground troops in Iraq, and they have already made a point to say that their existing operation has “no fixed end date.” US officials have previously indicated that the US would likely be in Iraq more or less forever, believing ISIS or something similar would crop up if the US was ever not occupying the nation.
Dunford’s comments suggest the US is considering something above and beyond this, but might portend both an increase in US military aid to Iraq and an even bigger deployment of ground troops in a nation-building capacity, though this would clearly run contrary to President Trump’s position that the US is spending too much money having troops abroad in so many different countries.
It does, however, explain why the Pentagon has been comfortable with pushing Iraq’s anti-ISIS military offensive across the Sunni Arab parts of the country, despite little to no serious effort being made to end the sectarian unrest that set the stage for ISIS’ original capture of those regions. Keeping the Iraqi Sunnis pacified is going to be an open-ended job, and it’s a job the Pentagon leadership is fine with taken up.