Skip to main content

Commentary: Iraqis thanks U.S. veterans as shared struggle continues

Shortly after I arrived in Washington, D.C., last year as my country's new envoy to the United States, I visited Arlington National Cemetery. I felt honor-bound to pay tribute to the American servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to rid my country of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and to resist transnational terrorism.

For nine years, American and Iraqi soldiers fought alongside each other, bled together, died together, and wept together to mourn fallen comrades.

Now, once again, Iraqis are seeing American service members helping us — this time, not as combat troops but as military advisers to help us defeat the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Eleven years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq is on the frontlines of the struggle with the best-funded, best-organized and best-equipped transnational terrorist organization on earth.

ISIL threatens to subjugate or exterminate everyone — everywhere — who will not swear allegiance to its extremist views. As the world witnesses ISIL's crucifixions, beheadings, mass executions and enslavement of women and girls, civilized people everywhere realize that ISIL is our common enemy — and combatting it must be our common cause.

Containment is not an option, because, as long as ISIL survives, it will seek to annihilate "the other" — and that means all of us, regardless of our religious views, whatever our ethnicity and certainly regardless of national borders.

ISIL recruits and trains, among others, battle-hardened western fighters, who will inevitably be unleashed back with vengeance into the societies from which they came.

How can the world community defeat ISIL? Yes, through military action. But military action alone — as important as it is — isn't enough. The U.S. has introduced a comprehensive strategy whereby its allies and the regional powers in the Middle East will conduct political, economic, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts to counter-act ISIL and the discontents that it exploits.

We fully support this strategy because we know that the causes and consequences of terrorism are transnational, and efforts to solve these problems must be regional and global in scope.

Since ISIL has taken control of Iraqi territory, this is Iraq's fight. But we cannot wage and win this fight alone.

Let me be clear about what Iraq does and does not need from the U.S. The Iraqi government is not asking for American combat troops on the ground. What we do need is American know-how, training, and intelligence-sharing.

Through this assistance, over the past two months, Iraqi security forces have made significant gains. We have liberated Mosul Dam. We have ended the siege of the town of Amerli. We have reduced the threat to Baghdad and Erbil by fortifying defenses. And the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga are cooperating as never before, including joint operations with U.S. support.

Only a few days ago, we liberated the town of Zumar in the north and the strategic area of Jorf Al Sakhar in the midland.

On the political front, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formed a new and inclusive national unity government. This government incorporates all Iraqis, including Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and others. This means that the new government has the backing of all the major political blocs

Further, Prime Minister al-Abadi has taken decisive measures to reform the military establishment, including appointing defense and interior ministers for the first time since 2010.

Together, we will rebuild Iraq and eradicate ISIL. Now, as over the past 11 years, the U.S. Iraq, and more than 60 other countries are working together as part of a coalition and in a common effort.

Together, we have lost lives and treasure in our shared struggle against terrorism and extremism.

Together, we have defeated the terrorists before.

And, together, we will defeat the terrorists again.

Long after victory is won, future generations of Iraqis will honor American troops, just as I do today, on Veterans Day, with appreciation and admiration.

Thank you, American veterans.

Lukman Faily is Iraq's ambassador to the United States.