Last night’s Presidential debate was arguably the most substantive debate of the three, although that’s not exactly proclaiming much. Fox News moderator Chris Wallace did a fairly good job of maintaining some semblance of order throughout the final clash.
Foreign policy largely took a back seat as issues like abortion were discussed in great detail.
There was one tense foreign policy exchange, however, after Wallace asked each candidate about the operation to liberate Mosul.
“If we are able to push ISIS out of Mosul and out of Iraq, would you be willing to put U.S. troops in there to prevent their return or something else?” was the question.
Trump launched into an explanation about how this attack was coordinated, presumably Obama, to help Hillary Clinton look good in the final days of the election.
“Let me tell you, Mosul is so sad. We had Mosul. But when she left, she took everybody out, we lost Mosul. Now we’re fighting again to get Mosul. The problem with Mosul and what they wanted to do is they wanted to get the leaders of ISIS who they felt were in Mosul. About three months ago, I started reading they want to get the leaders and they’re going to attack Mosul. Whatever happened to the element of surprise, okay? We announce we’re going after Mosul. I’ve been reading about going after Mosul now for about how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They’ve all left. The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves at the stupidity of our country.”
So, here is the dilemma with this assessment. First of all, the idea that somehow the operation to liberate Mosul was rushed in order to help Hillary Clinton get elected is a stretch. The sectarian divisions in that region of the world are well known. It’s not as if the United States government could organize and mobilize the Peshmerga, Iraqi army, Shiite militias, and Sunni tribesmen at the drop of a hat. And even if we could, there’s simply too much at stake in this battle for any of those groups to care who is president of the United States. This is life or death for them, and they’re not going to rush haphazardly into a battle for the sake of Hillary Clinton.
Secondly, there’s virtually no possible way to hide the staging for a full out assault on a city. Physically speaking – tens of thousands of troops, tanks, aircraft, special forces and more aren’t exactly easy to hide in the middle of the desert. Also, when involving so many different political and national factions –Turkey, America, the Kurds, Iraq, and more — word will eventually spread.
As for the claim that ISIS leaders heard about the attack date and fled the area – it’s not that simple. Peshmerga and the Iraqi army have, for months, been conducting operations to liberate city after city surrounding Mosul. Supply routes were cut off, effectively isolating Mosul from the outside world. Escaping is not that simple – and besides, capturing leaders not even the point of the operation.
The point is recapturing the last remaining ISIS stronghold in Iraq, ending their reign of terror on the country, crush ISIS hopes of establishing the caliphate, and allow hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis to begin the process of returning to their homes.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, ducked the fact that under her watch (and Obama’s watch) the Middle East has devolved into unprecedented instability and chaos. Instead, she chose to respond by rehashing who supported the Iraq war from the outset and who didn’t.
“Well, you know, once again Donald is implying that he didn’t support the invasion of Iraq. I said it was a mistake. I said that years ago. He has consistently denied what is — a very clear fact — before the invasion, he supported it” she said.
[Editor’s Note: The writer of the article has traveled to and reported from the front lines of the fight against ISIS, including the Christian village of Telskuf, which is just outside of Mosul.]