Columns

Hawaii Dem Gabbard: Can Iraq Even Hold Onto Ramadi?

Scene from Ramadi released by ISIS after it was taken by Islamic State fighters in May 2015.

A congressional Iraq War veteran doubted that the gains made against ISIS in Ramadi will be able to hold.

Iraq claimed victory over ISIS in the capital of Anbar province, but sections of the city still remain under the control of Islamic State jihadists.

About 80 percent of the city that once housed 200,000 people is in ruins, Iraqi officials say.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told CNN that the question is, “Will this be able to be sustained?”

“And if you look at it, the battle was actually, I think, the easier question. The tougher question is, unless there is a plan in place for the Sunni territory to be governed and secured by the Sunni tribes, then I think the likelihood is very high that you will see an opening for ISIS to make their way back in,” Gabbard warned.

‘That’s been the key all along is that these territories have to be governed and secured by the people who have held them, literally, for generations,” she said. “This is something that I’ve long called for in each of these different offensives that has been launched in Iraq. And we’ve seen failures in the past, because that plan was not in place.”

The congresswoman stressed that’s why “it’s so important for us to implement and help facilitate a three-state solution where you empower the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia to govern and secure their own territories.”

The spokesman for U.S. operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria told reporters this week that Sunni tribesmen “were not, frankly, a significant player in the seizure of Ramadi,” he said, but “they will be significant players in the stabilization and the holding of Ramadi.”

Gabbard, who has been critical of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism strategy, reiterated that “we’ve got to recognize that this is a problem that’s only going to get worse unless we really take this enemy, this Islamic extremist enemy and the ideology that’s driving them, seriously.”

“It’s important for us to actually identify who this enemy is, this Islamic extremist enemy. And the ideology that’s driving them, in order to effectively defeat and destroy them,” she said. “…If ISIS were destroyed today, in Syria alone there are at least 65,000 other violent radical Islamist fighters who are just as bad as ISIS and who will continue to pose this threat not only to the region but to the American people.”

“This is why it’s so important not to just go after one organization called ISIS, but to recognize this radical Islamist ideology that’s driving ISIS, that’s driving al-Qaeda, al Nusra and these groups that go by other names. That’s the only way that we’re actually going to be able to defeat this threat.”