Andrew Tilghman, Military Times
Nearly one in three Iraqis thinks the United States is secretly supporting the Islamic State group, according to new internal U.S. government polling.
That’s just one of the troubling views that the U.S. State Department Inspector General's Office found when it conducted a recent assessment of the “public diplomacy” efforts at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The polling shows that about 40 percent of Iraqis believe that the United States is working to destabilize Iraq and control its natural resources.
About half of Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites now say that they completely oppose the American-led coalition that is conducting daily airstrikes on Islamic State targets and also providing train-advise-and-assist support for the Iraqi military.
There are about 3,800 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Pentagon officials say that number will likely rise soon.
The polling shows that America’s general popularity among Iraqis has plummeted since U.S. forces returned to Iraq in 2014 to help the Iraqi government’s fight against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The number of Iraqis who said they have a favorable view of the Unites States fell from 38 percent in December 2014 to 18 percent in August 2015, according to the IG report.
Among Sunni Arabs, the favorable rating dropped from 54 percent to 10 percent, according to the report.
The inspector general's office published the internal government polling of Iraqis as part of its investigation into the scope and effectiveness of the White House’s stated goal to “Expose ISIL’s true nature." That is one of the “nine lines of effort” that summarize President Obama’s strategy for countering ISIL.
The IG found that the U.S. Embassy's public diplomacy activities had no formal strategic planning or goals.
The IG recommended that the embassy better incorporate public diplomacy efforts into its overarching strategy.