What Happens After We Beat ISIS?

As the US-led coalition closes the noose on ISIS in Mosul, Iraq and, later, Raqqa, Syria, deconfliction with Russia’s separate air campaign is going to be critical, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle told defense writers in Washington, D.C., Friday. “Increased … dialog has got to happen,” Carlisle said, because as ISIS becomes increasingly geographically confined, strike aircraft will be operating in an ever-more constrained airspace, making for an “extremely … complex” battlespace. Making sure there’s no confusion about who will be where is essential “to make sure there’s not a miscalculation” on either party’s part. “We’re going to beat ISIS,” Carlisle said, almost matter-of-factly. “I know we are going to win,” he added, but “Then what? That’s a ‘whole of government’ question.” Carlisle said ISIS survivors will probably flee to Nigeria and the Philippines to stir up trouble in those countries, while the power vacuum left in the Levant will invite conflict including Russia, Iran, and other entities, as everyone tries to “gain influence.” It’s also unclear whether Russia would increasingly turn to striking US-backed forces opposing the Assad regime once ISIS is wiped out, Carlisle said, and Turkey’s approach to the Kurds may go in a new direction, as well. “It’s going to be an interesting national security discussion,” Carlisle said, adding “we as a nation have got to look at this” and debate the US role in the aftermath of victory against ISIS before it happens. Carlisle is retiring March 10.