For a war which President Obama promised would involve “no boots on the ground,” the ISIS war in Iraq has involved a substantial deployment of ground troops, some 6,000 by most reckonings. Even as officials present ISIS as nearly defeated in Iraq, the US military presence looks to be more or less permanent.
That was the message from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who insisted that ISIS was heading for “lasting defeat,” but that the US and the rest of its coalition need to keep their troops engaged militarily in Iraq even after this, presenting this as a “sustained” operation.
Carter’s talk of an “enduring presence” in Iraq appears to be in keeping with a lot of officials in the Obama Administration, though with just a month left in office the decision on US troop levels “post-ISIS” will be left to President-elect Donald Trump.
Since Carter will be gone either way before the decision is to be made, the talk of an enduring presence is likely meant to present his, and the administration’s legacy in the war as being one on the verge of victory and with an eye toward a permanent US presence, allowing them to spin the next disaster that comes to US military policy in Iraq someone else’s fault.
Politicking over whose fault each Iraq failure is has become increasingly important in the US, with many officials blaming the current ISIS war on the lack of a permanent military presence after the last US occupation of Iraq, and each party insisting the other is ultimately to blame for that.