WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Speaking at the Brookings Institution, which he now heads, Gen. John Allen (US Marine Corps, Retired), had high praise for the part played by the Peshmerga and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the fight against the Islamic State.
Allen was Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS from 2014 to 2015, after which he joined the Brookings Institution, becoming its president in 2017.
A decade earlier, Allen fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF.) From 2006 to 2008, he served as deputy commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force and commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
The Marines were based in Anbar Province, and they nurtured the revolt against Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) that began in Anbar in late 2005 among the Sunni Arabs. That movement, known as the Awakening (Sahwa, in Arabic), then spread to other areas of Iraq, after President George W. Bush concluded in 2007 that defeat there was unacceptable and instituted “the surge.”
Speaking at Brookings on Tuesday, in a seminar marking the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Gen. Allen hailed the Kurdish role in that fight.
“We would not have had a lot of the options in northern Iraq that we ultimately were able to take advantage of, if it hadn’t been for the KRG,” Allen told the Brookings audience, “and the leadership within the KRG and the courage of the Peshmerga.”
“That gave us options,” he continued,” not just in the context of northern Iraq, but it gave us options with respect to Syria” as well.
“So we not only treasure our relationship with Baghdad, but we treasure our relationship with Erbil, as well,” he said.
Speaking after the event to Kurdistan 24, Allen stressed how important it was for the US to remain engaged in Iraq.
“I think the United States has to concentrate on doing all it can to solidify” ties between Erbil and Baghdad “over the long term,” he stated.
“We have a strong relationship with Baghdad” and “we have gone through a lot together,” he said.
“But we would not be as successful as we have been in this counter-ISIL fight, had it not been for our cooperation with the KRG as well, and the leadership in Erbil,” he added.
“We need to cultivate the leadership in both of those locations for the long term, and my hope is that Washington will pursue that,” he concluded.
Allen’s remarks came, as Moscow announced that its Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, next month will make the first trip to Baghdad of a Russian Foreign Minister since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the first trip ever of an individual of that rank to Erbil.
“The Russians are clever, and they are outflanking us in the Middle East,” warned a former US intelligence official, as he spoke with Kurdistan 24. “They have good relations with Iran. They’re in Syria. They’re developing ties with Turkey, and now it’s Iraq.”
“We don’t understand Putin’s overall strategy,” he cautioned, and, “therefore we don’t have a good way to counter it.”
Those with a sense of history will recall that three of those countries—Turkey, Iraq, and Iran—were once included in the “Baghdad Pact,” a US-led military alliance of the 1950s, intended to counter Soviet expansion southward.