Boots on the ground in Iraq, or not?
Vice President Biden claimed late last month that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “can be routed by local forces without U.S. boots on the ground.” He cites as evidence the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi army recovery of the Mosul Dam from ISIL.
But a military operation to recover a big, fixed installation in an unpopulated area is far easier than retaking Mosul, a city of about 2 million (the second largest in Iraq, after Baghdad). ISIL has deep roots in Mosul, which it had ruled at night for some time before it frightened off the Iraqi police and army in the daytime. ISIL has held at least parts of Fallujah and other towns in Anbar province since the beginning of the year, eradicating local resistance and established governing structures that are arguably doing better than the Iraqi government in delivering services. ISIL captured Tikrit more recently, but it is proving difficult for the Iraqi security forces to retake it
To roll back ISIL…