US Efforts in Iraq Could Last Through Next Presidential Election – Former US Ambassador

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The United States involvement in Iraq will increase and the reengagement will last for years, even into the next presidential election, Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan said in his Wednesday remarks to the Wilson Center.

WASHINGTON, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - The United States involvement in Iraq will increase and the reengagement will last for years, even into the next presidential election, Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan said in his Wednesday remarks to the Wilson Center.

“[President Obama] needs to prepare for a broader effort that will probably take several years and go through the next presidential election,” said Khalilzad, one of the central players in the diplomatic component of George W. Bush’s Iraq strategy, including the creation of the Nouri al Maliki government.

“With regard to the Unites States recognizing the threat, I think it will take a much bigger effort, and time, and cooperation from [people] both international and in the region to address this issue of preventing the consolidated control in either Iraq or Syria of ISIS [Islamic State (IS)].”

Over the past week, Obama has led what many analysts view as a reluctant reengagement in Iraq. US fighter jets and armed drones struck several Islamic State targets, as the administration provided arms to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the North, and have almost entirely rescued a contingent of Yazidi minorities from a humanitarian disaster. On August 11, Lieutenant General William Mayville of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that the strikes “are unlikely to affect ISIL’s [IS] overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria.”

Ambassador Khalilzad believes that there is a possibility of the US being forced to commit a significant number of combat forces, particularly if a political unity government cannot be formed in the coming period.

“I do not believe that at this point a substantial number of ground forces will be needed if, and that’s a big if, we can get a unity government in Iraq,” Khalilzad said.

He repeated that while ground forces may not be necessary right now, “you always have to deal with the alternatives that you have.” The former ambassador warned that delaying action could lead to the growth of the crisis. “Already the requirements are higher than they would have been six months ago, a year ago, or two years ago.”

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