One thing, it seems, that will not change under President Donald Trump is the United States military's occupation of Iraq after Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday that he believed "we'll be in this fight for a while."
During his presidential campaign, Trump claimed that he had opposed the Iraq invasion from the start and boasted repeatedly that he had an undisclosed plan to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).
But that plan may end up being the same endless war, launched in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush and continued by his successor, President Barack Obama.
After meeting with military commanders and Iraqi leaders on Monday, Secretary Mattis announced that "he is open to any request from his military commanders to aid the battle to retake Mosul and launch a major battle to oust IS from the base of its so-called caliphate in Raqqa, Syria," AP reported.
And despite calls for the U.S. military to retreat after the so-called Battle of Mosul, Mattis indicated that U.S. involvement in Iraq will likely continue, telling reporters, "I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other."
On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haideral-Abadi announced the start of a ground offensive on western Mosul, "where Islamic State militants are under siege along with an estimated 650,000 civilians," Reuters observed.
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In response, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr reportedly called on the Iraqi government on Monday to "demand that all occupying and so-called friendly forces leave Iraq" after the battle "in order to preserve the prestige and the sovereignty of the state."
According to Reuters, "Mattis declined to address Sadr's remarks directly, describing them as an internal political matter."
During the press conference, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend similarly declined to say how long the U.S. will stay in Iraq, telling reporters: "I don't anticipate that we'll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul...I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul," AP reported.
The plan to remain part of the protracted conflict, particularly to aid in retaking the ISIS stronghold, goes against statements made by Trump on the campaign trail. Among other things, he said that the "U.S. doesn't gain anything" in helping Iraq recapture Mosul.
Mattis also clarified on Monday that "[w]e're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," despite repeated statements made by Trump that the U.S. might use the resource grab as a strategy to defeat ISIS.