One Point at a Time

US Central Command boss Gen. Joseph Votel said Thursday he has seen Iraqi government leaders gain an “increasing level of confidence” each of the five times he’s visited there in the past four months. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo., Votel acknowledged there is a lot left to do in the fight against ISIS, but said the Iraqi government-led operations are “having the effects that we desire against ISIL.” Votel would not provide a timeline of when he expects Mosul to be retaken and said plans on how to govern, stabilize, and provide humanitarian assistance need to be in place before the military operation is carried out. Votel said he was told defense ministers agreed there shouldn’t be a rush to get to Mosul during their meeting at JB Andrews, Md., last week. “We will go to Mosul when it’s time to go to Mosul,” he said. Asked what victory against ISIS looks like, Votel said “success to me … looks like holding our coalition together and being able to prevent ISIL from doing the things that it is doing right now—that is controlling terrain, continuing with their very toxic ideology—and preventing them from perpetrating attacks outside of the areas in which they are.” Votel said he doesn’t expect a big victory parade in the end. “I think of this very much as a wrestling match,” he said. “We wrestle, we score a point, and then we move on to the next moves in this thing. And if you do that enough you end up prevailing.”