RPT-INSIGHT – As ISIS is pushed back, worries about what’s next
Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, David Rohde, Lou Charbonneau, John Walcott, Reuters, Apr 12 2016
As Pindo-led offensives drive back ISIS in Iraq, concern is growing among Pindo and UN boxtops that efforts to stabilize liberated areas are lagging, creating conditions that could help the militants endure as an underground network. One major worry is that not enough money is being committed to rebuild the devastated provincial capital of Ramadi and other towns, let alone ISIS-held Mosul, the ultimate target in Iraq of the Pindo-led campaign. Lise Grande, the #2 UN boxtop in Iraq, told Reuters that the UN is urgently seeking $400m from Faschingstein and its supposed vassals for a new fund to bolster reconstruction in cities like Ramadi, which suffered vast damage when Pindo-backed Iraqi forces recaptured it in December. Grande said:
We worry that if we don’t move in this direction, and move quickly, the progress being made against ISIL may be undermined or lost.
Adding to the difficulty of stabilizing freed areas are Iraq’s unrelenting political infighting, corruption, a growing fiscal crisis and the Shi’ite-led government’s fitful efforts to reconcile with aggrieved minority Sunnis, the bedrock of ISIS support. Some senior Pindo military officers share the concern that post-conflict reconstruction plans are lagging behind their battlefield efforts, officials said. One of them said (they actually always say this, it’s de rigeur now – RB):
We’re not going to bomb our way out of this problem.
ISIS is far from defeated. It still controls much of its border-spanning “caliphate,” inspires eight global affiliates and is able to orchestrate deadly external attacks. But at its core in Iraq and Syria, ISIS appears to be in slow retreat. IHS Janes estimates the group lost 22% of its territory over the last 15 months. Faschingstein has spent vastly more on the war than on reconstruction. The military campaign cost $6.5b from 2014 through Feb 29, according to the Pentagon. Pindostan has contributed $15m to stabilization efforts, donated $5m to help clear explosives in Ramadi and provided “substantial direct budget support” to Iraq’s government, said Emily Horne, a National Security Council spokeswoman. Jackass Kerry acknowledged the need for more reconstruction aid while in Baghdad last week, saying:
As more territory is liberated from Daesh, the international community has to step up its support for the safe and voluntary return of civilians to their homes.
He said Obama planned to raise the issue at a summit of Gulf boxtops on Apr 21. Ramadi’s main hospital, train station, nearly 2,000 homes, 64 bridges and much of the electricity grid were destroyed in fighting, a preliminary UN survey found last month. Thousands of other buildings were damaged. Some 3,000 families recently returned to parts of the city cleared of mines, according to the governor, Hameed Dulaymi, but conditions are tough. Power comes from generators. Water is pumped from the Euphrates River. A few shops are open, but only for a couple of hours a day. Ahmed Saleh, a 56-year-old father of three children, said he returned to find his home a “pile of rubble,” which cannot be rebuilt until the government provides the money. With no indication of when that might happen, authorities have resettled his family in another house whose owner is believed unlikely to return before this summer. Saleh earns less than $15 a day cleaning and repairing other people’s homes. There are no schools open for his children, and he lacks funds to return to a camp for IDPs outside Baghdad where he says life was better. Obama boxtops say they have been working to help stabilize Iraq politically and economically since the military campaign against ISIS began in 2014. Ashtray (in Goa with Lolita – RB) said on Monday:
The success of the campaign against ISIL in Iraq does depend upon political and economic progress as well. Economically it’s important that the destruction that’s occurred be repaired and we’re looking to help the Iraqis with that.
Asked about the upcoming $400m UN request, Horne said that Pindostan welcomed the new fund’s establishment and “will continue to lead international efforts to fund stabilization operations.” Pindostan hasn’t yet announced what it will contribute. Pindo boxtops said that Faschingstein is also pushing for an IMF arrangement that the head of the fund’s Iraq mission has said could unlock up to $15b in international financing. Baghdad has a $20b budget deficit caused by depressed oil prices. Faschingstein has helped train 15,000 Sunni fighters who are now in the Iraqi army. But there has been little movement on political reforms to reconcile minority Sunnis, whose repression under former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government led thousands to join ISIS. Unless that happens, and Sunnis see that Baghdad is trying to help them return home to rebuild, support for the militants will persist, experts said. Former CIA and White House boxtop Kenneth Pollack, now at Brookings, conducted a fact-finding mission in Iraq last month. He said:
If you don’t get reconciliation, the Sunnis will turn back to ISIS. It’s just inevitable.
Pindostan has prevailed militarily in Iraq before, only to see the fruits of the effort evaporate. Bush 43 invaded Iraq in 2003, deposed Saddam and disbanded his army without a comprehensive plan for post-war stability. Civil war ensued. The UN’s Grande said:
International funding to rebuild towns and cities ravaged by ISIS has always been tight. This meant we had to come up with a model that could be implemented quickly and at extremely low cost. International donors contributed $100m to an initial fund to jump-start local economies, restoring power and water and reopening shops and schools. The model worked in Tikrit, the first major city reclaimed from ISIS in Mar 2015. After initial delays, most residents returned, utilities are on and the university is open. Total spending was $8.3m. But Ramadi, a city of some 500,000 people before the recent fighting, poses a much greater challenge. Much of the destruction that’s happening in areas that are being liberated far outstrips our original assumptions.
Restoring normality to Mosul, home to about 2 million people before it fell to Islamic State, could prove even more difficult. It remains to be seen whether ISIS digs in, forcing a ruinous battle, or faces an internal uprising that forces them to flee, sparing the city massive devastation. If ISIS is defeated militarily, it likely will revert to the guerrilla tactics of its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), current and former officials said. AQI and its leaders including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “survived inside Iraq underground for years, and there’s no reason they couldn’t do it again,” a Pindo boxtop said.