If Trump wants to "win" against ISIS, he'll need Iraqis and Syrians

Top advisers urged Iraq to be removed from ban
Top advisers urged Iraq to be removed from ban

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Story highlights

  • Gayle Lemmon: Many people are telling the White House the new version of the travel ban should exclude Iraq
  • She notes that the US is fighting a war there and now is not the time to further disrupt relations

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The New York Times best-seller, "Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield." The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)When President Trump's new travel ban comes out, many think it may (and should) exclude Iraq.

That is because the United States continues to fight a war there -- even if it doesn't act like it.
US forces are currently in Iraq, serving alongside Iraqis whose help America needs if it is to, as President Trump has urged, "win" its wars again.
A blanket ban on residents of seven majority-Muslim nations could not and did not pass legal muster when it went into effect the first weekend of the Trump presidency.
And now, as the Trump administration tries to find ways to put the ban back together again, the White House is said to be listening to those who argued that Iraq should not be on the list of nations whose citizens are banned from US borders.
Those include new National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, both veteran leaders of the post-9/11 wars who know on-the-ground reality versus back-at-home rhetoric.
"Iraq is our partner and ally," said America's most senior commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, via remote video from Baghdad. "They are an ally in the fight against ISIS, and this nation is fully mobilized in this war alongside of us. They've invited us into their country to help them. They are protecting us here and we're fighting this enemy that threatens all of our countries together."
It is almost as if the last time around the United States forgot that its own citizens in uniform were deploying to Iraq and seeking help from Iraqis in America's battle against ISIS.
Sources: Cab. members urge dropping Iraq from ban
Sources: Cab. members urge dropping Iraq from ban

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Sources: Cab. members urge dropping Iraq from ban 04:36
Somehow, no one thought to imagine what it would be like for US troops out on the front lines of the anti-ISIS fight to explain to their Iraqi counterparts why they were trusted enough to go into combat alongside, but not good enough to allow into their nation.
Last time around, little thought seemed to be given as well to the Iraqi interpreters who had put their lives on the line, again and again, for America, sometimes spending years serving as the eyes and ears for US forces. Instead of being welcomed with open arms to the United States in January, Iraqi interpreters who received special visas after years of vetting found themselves turned away at home or detained upon arrival, some for more than 12 hours.
It fell to veterans' groups like No One Left Behind to remind the United States to wake up and remember its wars, and to raise media attention about the message that including Iraq on the list of banned nations sent to those who put their lives at risk for the United States.
Among those who got it was Sen. John McCain, who said Wednesday evening that it was urgent Iraq not be among the nations the Trump administration planned to keep out.
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"I'm told that Iraq will not be one of those seven countries," McCain said at a town hall hosted by CNN. "That's vital, because the Iraqis now -- we have Americans fighting in Iraq against ISIS, and we need the cooperation of the Iraqi government."
And if America wants to "win" its wars, as Trump has stated, it will need Iraqis and Syrians, among others, to lead — and to finish the fight against ISIS.