Best Defense

A former senior U.S. commander on the next steps to be taken in Iraq

It's quite a tall order.


This is what a former senior US commander in Iraq tells me has to come next: “Before clearing operations begin, the hold force has to be identified. And, needless to say, the hold force has to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people of the area to be cleared.”

He didn’t say so, but that is quite a tall order. I think it means you can’t hold Sunni areas with Shiite militias, or perhaps even with lower-quality Shiite-dominated Iraqi army units.

So, it is possible to get high-quality Sunni-led Iraqi army units that Baghdad will trust to operate in Anbar, that aren’t Kurdish and can be trusted by Anbaris?


Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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