|The Department of Defense has issued an unusually detailed DoD budget request for Iraq and Syria entitled the Justification for FY 2018 OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS (OCO) COUNTER-ISIS TRAIN AND EQUIP FUND (CTEF). A full copy of this document is available on the CSIS web site at cs.is/2sjnT8X.
The key portions of this budget request deserve careful attention. As is noted in an article by Joe Gould in Defense News, it seems to reflect key elements of the DoD strategy review of the wars in Iraq and Syria—which has not yet been released—and provides some important insights into U.S. planning for what will happen after a victory against ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa.
The request makes it clear that the United States is not cutting back on future commitments despite what is expected to be a significant level of victories in CY2017. The President’s FY2018 budget request totals $1.1769 billion, including $1.269 billion for Iraq train and equip (T&E) activities and $0.5 billion for Syria T&E activities. (Excludes $289.5 million requested in the FY2017/2018 Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) for support to the Kurdish Peshmerga.) This compares with $1.176 billion for Iraq T&E activities and $0.430 billion for Syria T&E activities.
The document conspicuously does not propose military personnel levels for either Syria or Iraq. The OSD Comptroller did however, propose a rise in average annual troop strength to 5,765 in the FY2017 revised request versus 3,500 in the original FY2017 request in the Request for Additional FY2017 Appropriation. The actual figures for Iraq alone were 3,180 in both FY2015 and FY2016.
There are practical and political limits to what a budget request can cover. The section on Iraq does not address any form of new arrangements between Sunni and Shi’ites or the central government and the Kurds, but it does recognize that the defeat of ISIS in Mosul will not end ISIS or the terrorist threat, that sectarian and ethnic tension present critical issues, that Iraq’s border with Syria will be unstable, that Russian and Iranian interference will be serious issues, that Central Government control over the security forces needs to be strengthened, and that achieving any lasting stability will take several years and require both DoD and State support.
The document focuses more exclusively on aid, does not address any form of conflict resolution or peace settlement, and does not discuss the need to deal with the conflicting interests of Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, or Turkey; does not address the impact of Assad’s gains; the role of Russian forces; the fact that the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) is largely Syrian Kurds; Turkish claims that these Kurds are link to the PKK and terrorism; or the fact the vast majority of Arab rebels are not part of the VDO and are increasingly tied to Islamist extremist factions with links to Al Qa’ida.
It does, however, cover several key aspects of the U.S. military mission in Syria:
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
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