Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander for U.S. military efforts in Iraq, warned that airstrikes to help Shia militias are not the solution to stopping extremists who are seeking to undermine efforts by the country to maintain its own government.
"This cannot be the United States being the air force of Shia militias or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight," said Petraeus, speaking Wednesday to the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty in London.
"It has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists who do happen to be Sunni Arabs but extremists that are wreaking havoc on a country that really had an enormous opportunity back in 2011, has made progress in certain areas but has certainly not capitalized on that enormous opportunity in the way that we had all hoped," said Petraeus, in a report from NBC News
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The country's current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, must work harder to include the Sunni population of Iraq, as sectarian violence continues, said Petraeus, who led the 2003 Iraq invasion and later the 2007 "surge" push where the U.S. put an additional 20,000 troops inside the country.
In the past two weeks, ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a bloodthirsty offshoot of al-Qaida — has been taking over city after city in Iraq and engaging in the mass slaughter of civilians. This renewed violence and undermining of progress has been disheartening for those who fought hard on the ground in the conflict to restore stability and freedom. It is also seen as a growing security threat for the U.S.
While Shia Muslims make up the majority in Iraq, prior to the U.S. invasion, a Sunni minority held power. Moving forward, al-Maliki's ongoing division within his country will continue to cause problems, Huffington Post UK
"There has to be a huge idea here and it has to be that if there is to be support for Iraq it has to be support for a government of Iraq that is a government of all the people and representative of and responsive to all," Petraeus said."You cannot have 18 to 20 percent of the population feeling disenfranchised, feeling that it has no stake in the success of the country," Petraeus added. "There has to be a government that is trusted by all elements of the society."
Petraeus is the latest in a growing number of military and political leaders calling for the Obama administration to act in Iraq but only with clear expectations that change is coming in the Maliki government, which Obama partially blames for the recent uprising the ISIS.
The U.S. government would like to see a coalition government without Maliki, the Wall Street Journal
reported. The administration want the country’s Sunni and Kurdish people represented in a new government along with the Shiites.
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