International intervention gone wrong: what is the most effective way to defeat IS?

4 mins read

By Nathalie Larsson

The modern terrorist group that wreaks havoc in the Middle East, or more significantly Iraq and Syria, is known by many names: IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh. The name by which to refer to the group correctly by their standards is the Islamic State (IS) since it is with this name that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate he rules over in the summer of 2014, when IS besieged the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The name change from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to IS stems from the group’s intention of expanding beyond these Middle Eastern countries into becoming a global caliphate. This has magnified tensions between the terrorist group and the West, since IS is beginning to become a legitimate worldwide threat. This looming danger has sparked the creation of the so-called Global Coalition, with 68 member states and international organizations adamant on destroying terrorism in the Middle East.

Fast forward to 2017 and the terror group is still at large, entangled in a bloody battle for the city of Mosul against the Iraqi army, Shia militias, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and the 68-member strong coalition. It has been almost six months since this clash began, and the Islamic State is still a present danger in Iraq, despite four groups spending considerable resources and time on destroying IS. This raises the question whether this four-way coalition really is the best way for Iraq to shake off its nasty parasite.

Each member of the Global Coalition chooses what resources it wants to supply the Iraqi army with, ranging from money to military advisors to drone strikes, yet the line is drawn at ground troops. There are no foreign fighters on the front lines in Mosul. This means that 68 countries and organizations have come together to defeat IS without actually introducing boots on the ground, instead focusing on behind-the-scenes contributions. Considering that this battle has gone on for almost half a year, the aid and advice approach seems, above all, inefficient in the ongoing fight against violent terrorist fighters. If the Global Coalition had sent in a few thousand American troops to fight alongside the Iraqi military, this battle may have been over long ago.

As of March 7th, roughly a third of Mosul is left under terrorist control, all of it being west of the Tigris river. Iraq’s advantage has established itself rapidly in recent weeks, finally pushing aside the bleak outlook that had been persistent for months since the battle for Mosul commenced. For most of the battle, IS has had the advantage of using brutal tactics like suicide bombers, indiscriminate murdering, and using civilians as human shields. Granted, some coalition members have supplied the army with equipment and training which has helped Iraq gain some advantage months into the fight. With all this aid and advice, the reason Iraq did not prosper sooner must be the inefficient delivery of the outside aid. However, another way to gain advantage early on could have been the introduction of international military.

I believe that the international assistance that is present in Iraq and parts of Syria in the hopes to defeat IS may at times be superfluous, in turn promoting its inefficient utilization. One suggestion to increase effectiveness could be a cut back in the presence of redundant coalition members, and instead focus on members with top military training and a history of successful war strategies that will guarantee Iraq its victory. According to the Global Coalition’s website Sweden, with the longest years of consecutive peace in the world, has 35 military trainers on ground in northern Iraq. Whereas the US has 4,647 authorized personnel to advise and assist the military. Smaller contributors like Sweden may serve a better role in continuing financial donations behind the scenes.

International intervention is a role the West likes to adopt as standard policy when others face a threat like that of a terrorist organization. Yet the type of intervention has shifted from forceful military invasion, like 2003 Iraq, to the behind the scenes approach seen in Mosul today. The driving force for this transformation may be how inefficient military intervention in the past has led to even worse post-conflict recovery. Take the aftermath of US and UK military force in Iraq in 2003 as an example: They left behind a country in turmoil. Not only did they topple Hussein’s dictatorship, but went on to dissolve Iraq’s army and with the help of American advisors build a new one from the ground up. Upon leaving in 2011, the foreign rules and strategies imposed by the foreigners were too new and different for Iraq to keep an effective army going, resulting in a through and through corrupt military. Ultimately, this corruption led to the easy taking of Mosul by a terrorist group outnumbered fifteen to one simply due to a stronger determination for their cause than that of Iraqi fighters. Taking inefficient military intervention and inefficient post-conflict reconstruction into consideration, a better approach to intervention abroad requires an improved coordinated response with an absence of boots on the ground.

Despite this, the only way forward in the ongoing Battle of Mosul has to be forceful military intervention. The current advice and aid system has proven to be inefficient and the fight has become too costly for the coalition to undergo a change in aid strategy. It is too late to change the institutions in place and the necessary and quick solution to this particular case has to be the introduction of military troops to fight alongside the Iraqi army. However, it is of grave importance to the international community to realize the need for a change in intervention strategy to more efficient assistance without including military force. We cannot let a situation come as far as it did in Mosul. Efficiency has to become the ground work around which to build international intervention strategies.

By Nathalie Larsson

Editorial note: The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not express the position of Uttryck’s editorial team, or those of UF as an organisation.

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