The commander of Fort Drum said Iraq’s military victories against ISIS will have to be built upon with political and economic action to ensure the terrorist group cannot return as a threat.

“It will take generations,” said Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt. “But we cannot allow conditions to be set that will allow such a brutal force to rise and in such numbers that they could actually threaten the takeover of a country and invade and destroy and hold terrain, that can’t happen.”

The general spoke about the status of Iraq’s fight against ISIS at Jefferson Community College Friday night as he outlined the division’s current and future training in the north country and the upcoming division headquarters deployment to Iraq.

Iraqi forces in the last two years have pushed out ISIS from most of the areas it controlled throughout the country, pushing forward despite intense fighting that resulted in major casualties.

In Mosul alone, Gen. Piatt said there were about 1,600 Iraqi personnel killed, with thousands more wounded.

“That’s the cost they’re willing to pay to defeat this enemy and take back their country,” Gen. Piatt said.

The division headquarters will arrive as the country prepares for elections in May, and looks to rebuild from the extensive damage caused by ISIS in the territories it controlled. Additionally, the division’s headquarters and its 3rd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Polk, La., are helping Iraqi forces in areas like border security and policing.

“You can win the fight and lose the peace because you didn’t do anything with the peace,” Gen. Piatt said. “This stabilization we’re trying to provide is so critical.”

Though ISIS has been pushed out of the territory it controlled, Gen. Piatt said the group’s threat is not over.

“They went underground,” Gen. Piatt said. “Leaders have fled, soldiers have dispersed, and they remain a viable threat in many cities.”

As much as a military fight, Gen. Piatt noted there will need to be diplomatic and economic efforts from America and its partners to improve the country’s stability.

“Nobody is going to surrender, there will be no ticker-tape parade down in New York City that we’ve defeated terrorism. It’s just not a military instinct,” Piatt said. “In the end, what will win the peace is political solutions, good economic investment in nations, good trade. And that’s what Iraq wants to be. Iraq wants to be a partner to the United States in the Middle East.”

During a question and answer period, Gen. Piatt also affirmed his support for placing a missile defense site at Fort Drum, as the Pentagon gets closer to releasing a study which should state whether an east coast site is necessary. The post is one of three sites in consideration if such a site were to be built.


©2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.