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7 - America’s Larger Forever Wars

Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2021

Thomas H. Henriksen
Affiliation:
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, California
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Summary

This chapter takes up the “forever war” theme by returning to Iraq just prior to Obama’s troop pullout and to Afghanistan where he inherited a failing war. Coming into the White House, Obama fulfilled his campaign pledge to end Bush’s “dumb war” in Iraq but left the country vulnerable. The violence in the Syrian civil war attracted al Qaeda militants from Iraq. They formed the nucleus of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the most fearsome terrorist network in the world. ISIS seized land in Syria, invaded Iraq, and announced a caliphate. Obama answered Iraq’s pleas for help. US and allied airpower, along with SOF, turned the tide of battle. The Pentagon again used local allies; this time mostly Kurds who formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF fought ISSI and the Damascus regime to carve out an enclave in Syria. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Obama endorsed the Pentagon’s surge of troops to nearly 100,000 so as to exit the war as in Iraq. He changed course and stopped U.S. participation in combat roles in 2014. He decreased troops to around 8,000 before leaving office. At first Trump upped the troops and gave his generals greater freedom to act. Then, he, too, scaled them down to 2,500 in Afghanistan and Iraq, while negotiating with the Taliban to leave totally by May 1, 2021.

Type
Chapter
Information
America's Wars
Interventions, Regime Change, and Insurgencies after the Cold War
, pp. 214 - 256
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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