The Future of Iraq: Findings of the Atlantic Council's Task Force Report 2017
May 31, 2017
Chair: Ambassador Ryan Crocker
Excerpts from the Report: The Iraqi government, backed by the United States and its coalition partners, are on the brink of retaking all the territories once occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq. In this report, we offer a strategy for how the United States can build on this success to bring about a lasting defeat of ISIS and secure US national security interests in Iraq over the long term. Over the course of 2016, the Task Force on the Future of Iraq brought together the world’s leading Iraq scholars, experts, and former policy practitioners to conduct a rigorous inquiry into how the United States could best protect its national security interests and promote Iraqi interests through targeted and effective engagement in Iraq.
Publicly Commit to Engaging in Iraq in the Long Term.
US policy in Iraq is undermined by Iraqi perceptions that US engagement is superficial and transitory. Both ISIS and Iran promote the idea that the United States cannot be relied on for a long-term partnership.The recent visit of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, and Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner are a good start. President Trump’s March 20, 2017 meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi provided some assurance to the Iraqi government and the public that the United States is committed to helping Iraq even after the military defeat of ISIS.
Focus on Improving Governance.
Violent extremism flourishes in societies where the government is seen as corrupt, weak, and illegitimate by its population. The United States can most effectively tackle violent extremism in the long term by pressing the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to better meet the needs of the Iraqi people. In the short term, this must involve supporting free and fair provincial and parliamentary elections.
Strengthen the Iraqi Economy.
The Iraqi state needs a functioning economy in order to fight violent extremism, provide employment for youth vulnerable to radicalization, and to protect itself from Iranian intervention. The United States should continue to support the Iraqi economy through direct financial assistance and support for the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and multinational aid.
Keep Training Iraqi Forces.
The security threats to Iraq will not end when ISIS is driven out of Mosul. Iraqi security forces need to be prepared for the long-term defense of Iraqi territory from resurgent violent extremism. This can be achieved by maintaining an appropriate number of US troops in Iraq beyond the liberation of Mosul, and by pursuing a long-term mission to advise, train, and equip Iraqi Security Forces.
Mediate between Baghdad and the KRG.
Any military conflict between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government would seriously undermine US efforts to achieve a permanent defeat of violent extremism in Iraq. The United States should continue to mediate as appropriate between Baghdad and the KRG as they deal with complex issues such as disputed territories, oil and oil revenues, security, and Kurdish independence and should escalate its support for the United Nations in such mediation.