Perspectives and options for a long-term counter-terrorism and counter violent extremism strategy in Iraq
While the United States’ (US) involvement was officially over in 2011, the raise of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Iraq has redrawn attention and prompted a new US-led operation in Iraq (operation ‘Inherent Resolve’). After more than a year of targeted air-strikes on the group and a coalition encompassing over sixty countries around the globe, including the Netherlands, this report casts a light on the state of the conflict and what can be achieved in terms of Counter-Terrorism (CT) and Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) programmes within the current military efforts.
Among the plethora of possible solutions, this report highlights the following provisions as being paramount: Measures of confidence and bottom-up trust building between communties and representatives and between the centre and periphery; Security Sector Reform (SSR) with a special emphasis on the Peshmerga forces, control over international assistance; discussion over a political roadmap; reinforcement of the state apparatus, both in Baghdad (PM Abadi’s government) and Erbil (support to the Ministry of the Peshmerga and to the effort to free the Peshmerga forces from political interferences), investment in education and monitoring the post-conflict reconstruction process.
The international efforts have to take into account regional political agendas and the diplomatic deal at play in the country (regarding, for instance, the Russian pro-activism and the Iran-Turkey’s long-standing divergent interests).
In order to provide a deeper insight into this challenge, the authors first explore the current situation in Iraq and the Kurdish province. They then focus on the foreign military efforts deployed in Iraq and in the Kurdistan region, where the international community strongly supports the fight of the Peshmerga (the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan) against ISIL.
In a medium-term perspective, their report goes on to explore options for transitioning from a military campaign to a stabilization strategy that concurrently encompasses CT tools and CVE programmes. As the situation in Iraq is volatile at both the political and security levels, the report goes on to list the scenarios and main obstacles that could question, at local and regional levels, the implementation of a long-term stabilization strategy.
Finally, the report’s conclusions highlight the major entry points and recommendations for a sustainable stabilization involvement in Iraq.