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Dunford: Iraq Conditions ‘Much Different’ if we Retained Levels of Integration after 2009

• December 1, 2015 2:04 pm

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the situation in Iraq today would be "much different" if the United States had retained high levels of integration between the Department of State and Department of Defense on engagement with Iraq after 2009.

Dunford made his remark in response to a question posed by Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.) while testifying before the Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the U.S. strategy to fight the Islamic State and its effect on broader issues facing Iraq, Syria, and the entire Middle East.

Moulton first asked about ongoing efforts to improve coordination between the Pentagon and State Department on the anti-Islamic State campaign. Dunford explained that steps have been taken to create better integration across the government. He cited the recent offensive against the Islamic State's oil and the focus on countering the group's foreign fighter influx as examples of such integration working.

The general did say, however, that he is not satisfied with the level of cooperation and described the process of reaching "the desired political end state in Iraq" as a "hard slog."

Moulton then asked, "If we had retained that level of integration after 2009, would we be in the mess we are today in Iraq?"

"It's fair to say the conditions would be much different," Dunford said.

When President Obama came to office in January 2009, he planned to disengage from Iraq and focus U.S. foreign policy and governmental coordination elsewhere, an effort that culminated in the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in 2011.

As a result, integration efforts between the Departments of State and Defense regarding Iraq that helped lead to the successful surge of troops there in 2007 and 2008 subsequently atrophied, which is what Moulton was addressing with his question.

Dunford and Carter mentioned several times throughout the hearing on Tuesday that the U.S. goal in Iraq is to create a unified, inclusive state that respects the rights of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. They both also said that, while the country should center around the government in Baghdad, there must be a level of decentralization so the Sunnis and Kurds each have a degree of self-government.