Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, appeared at a ceremony this Sunday where he was given authority of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Lieutenant General Townsend is now in command of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, a role previously given to Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of III Armored Corps based at Fort Hood, Texas. Here is a brief bio of Lt. Gen. Townsend as presented by Fort Bragg:
“Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend commissioned in the Infantry upon graduation from North Georgia College in 1982. His initial assignment was with the 82d Airborne Division where he served as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer and assistant S3 in the 2d Battalion (Airborne), 505th Infantry and deployed for Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada. Next, he was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Ord, California where he served as the Battalion S3 of 4th Battalion, 21st Infantry and commanded Alpha Company. LTG Townsend was then reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he served as the S3 (Air) and assistant S3 at HQs, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed for Operation Just Cause, Panama, and commanded Charlie Company, 3d Ranger Battalion.”
It goes on to say:
“After Command and General Staff College he returned to Fort Benning where he served as Senior Liaison Officer at Ranger Regiment HQs and S3 of the 3d Ranger Battalion and deployed for Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti. He was then assigned to United States Pacific Command, Hawaii as a J-5 Action Officer and later as Special Assistant to the Combatant Commander.”
The Iraq-Syria War Commander spoke at the ceremony, which was presided by Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Central Command’s commanding general. Looking at the hundreds of American and foreign soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines he forcefully condemned both Russia and Syria for the recent airstrikes around the northeastern city of Hasakeh.
He also confirmed that preparations are under way to retake Mosul, which was seized by ISIS fighters in 2014. The decorated Lieutenant might be the best man for the job, for he commanded 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and led Task Force Arrowhead on offensive operations across Iraq and Mosul. Mr. Townsend explained:
“I don’t want to make promises, but I intend to have Mosul and Raqqa done on my watch. With the fall of those two capitals, essentially, you have eliminated the physical vestiges of the caliphate.”
He went on to say:
“The enemy at that time [will] have to crawl into holes and little villages in the desert and hide, and he’ll become an insurgency, which is a new and dangerous phase in its own right, and we’ll have to deal with that. But right now, my focus is on destroying the physical caliphate.”
Townsend highlighted the long list of progress made in the region:
“Over the past year, CJTF-OIR, led by my good friend Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland and his III Armored Corps, and our coalition and regional partners, have done incredible work to degrade and dismantle ISIL’s oppressive and brutal regime.”
Townsend was blunt and stated that despite the progress, their technology, and manpower that the war was a long way from over. He shared:
“There are hard days ahead.I don’t think this war is anywhere near over. In a war the enemy gets a vote, and the enemy is going to throw some punches and he’s going to get lucky here and there. He’s going to throw some punches that we don’t see coming. I think it gets tougher the closer we get to defeating [Islamic State].”
The likelihood militants will transform themselves into an insurgency such as Afghanistan’s Taliban has some questioning whether U.S. troops might get involved in another prolonged conflict. A spokesman for Inherent Resolve, Army Col. Christopher Garver, added:
“I’m not saying it’s going to be an enduring presence, but there continues to be a role for the coalition.”
According to experts, the coalition’s decision to try to stop Syrian and Russian warplanes will lead to a costly confrontation.