ISIS Is in Retreat, But Iraqi Kurd Independence Referendum Didn't Help

Terry Wolff is the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL at the U.S. Department of State. He met with journalists in Washington last week for a briefing on the department's role in defeating ISIS. He offered an encouraging report on the amount of territory the U.S. and coalition governments have reclaimed from the terrorist organization, focusing his remarks on postwar rebuilding and rule of law.After his presentation, he took questions from the media, and I asked his views on the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. The following is an excerpt of his remarks and the Q&A.As you would expect, ensuring that Daesh is defeated remains an urgent priority of the governments, this administration, and our No. 1 priority in the Middle East. And to defeat ISIS, we pursue a whole government approach. That means you use all the tools of national power and you do that in conjunction with the global coalition.The liberation of Iraq and ISIS' losses in Syria are really major milestones when you consider that nearly 7.7 million people have been freed from ISIS rule. Which is an incredibly significant accomplishment for the coalition, but our work is far from over. The global coalition continues to make Iraq and its cities safe, and to help the local population through stabilization efforts. Part of that is to help the government of Iraq clear explosive remnants of war; restore basic services like electricity, water, education and health; and set the conditions for local economies to get back on their feet and to allow displaced Iraqis to return to their homes. Could you talk a little bit about how Kurdish independence efforts in Iraq are playing a role in your efforts to defeat ISIS?So first of all, the history of what the Iraqi Kurds did to help the government in Iraq in their efforts to fight Daesh was pretty remarkable. The Iraqi Kurds helped to hold the northern and eastern shoulders of the Mosul offensive. They facilitated the movement of Iraqi security forces up into some of the areas that basically were the jump-off points for the Iraqi security forces, both for the liberation of East Mosul and then West Mosul.The Kurdish referendum, last September, frankly was not helpful at the time. Because what it really did was divert an enormous amount of attention, when mission No. 1 was the defeat of Daesh. And so no one thought it was a particularly good idea at the time, except for the Iraqi Kurds.And ultimately what it did was, it caused the government of Iraq to decide that they had to regain control of their borders and their international airports. And so ultimately what this did was, we spent a lot of time with people diverting a lot of attention from the fight against Daesh.It's left a bit of an aftertaste in people's mouths, and it will have some impact on the Iraqi elections.The Kurds have walked back a bit from this. But obviously if you look at some of the different people that claim to speak on their behalf, it'll indicate that it isn't something that's totally off of their agenda. The next big step will be how things play out in the Iraqi elections. And when the votes come in and as they're certified, then the determination will be made, how many seats did people win in the council representatives and then how do the Iraqis move forward to form a government?Elizabeth Souder is the assistant opinion editor and a member of the Dallas Morning News editorial board.What's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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