Avoiding a ‘Catastrophic Success’ in Iraq

American, Kurdish, and Iraqi forces are making progress in halting the advancement of the Islamic State on the battlefield. U.S. airstrikes have put the group on the defensive—killing its fighters, destroying its equipment, and overall frustrating its ability to operate.

According to U.S. military officials I have spoken with, the rebooted Iraqi Army should be capable of launching major ground operations against the Islamic State in the next four to eight months. In six to 18 months, the Islamic State might be pushed out of Iraq entirely.

So, militarily, the situation in Iraq looks hopeful. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that advancements on the political side have not kept pace with the progress made on the battlefield. Despite the laudable efforts of the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to begin to repair the damage done by the Maliki regime over the past several years, Sunni and Shiite communities in Iraq remain politically divided and deeply mistrustful of one another. 

In such a fractious political environment, a military victory against the Islamic State would at best produce a “catastrophic success.”

In my latest piece for the New York Times, I outline a number of concrete steps the Obama administration can take to help Iraq avoid a catastrophic success and to ensure that U.S. reengagement in Iraq will achieve meaningful and lasting progress in both the political and military arenas.

Read the article in the

New York Times