U. S. Expanding War on ISIS in Iraq
The United States is going to somewhat gingerly expand its war on ISIS, a sign that there is concern that the group — which you can accurately compare to the Nazis in the way they mercilessly butcher men, women and children within their rapidly growing territory — continues to make inroads and poses a threat to the Middle East, and perhaps beyond. In many cases it is meeting weak and downright cowardly (a word I NEVER use but there is no other word) resistance from Iraqi forces. The New York Times:
In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, and to send up to 450 more American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi.
The White House on Wednesday is expected to announce a plan that follows months of behind-the-scenes debate about how prominently plans to retake Mosul, another Iraqi city that fell to the Islamic State last year, should figure in the early phase of the military campaign against the group.
The fall of Ramadi last month effectively settled the administration debate, at least for the time being. American officials said Ramadi was now expected to become the focus of a lengthy campaign to regain Mosul at a later stage, possibly not until 2016.
The additional American troops will arrive as early as this summer, a United States official said, and will focus on training Sunni fighters with the Iraqi Army. The official called the coming announcement “an adjustment to try to get the right training to the right folks.”
That makes sense, but the administration can expect the following (and I’ve looked at no blogs and thank goodness stayed away from the increasingly tiresome MSNBC and Fox News on this issue.):
1. Conservatives will say it’s not enough and use that now hack word “feckless.” Some will press for a much bigger commitment of troops to turn the tide in Iraq. After all, it worked before, winning the war and ensuring stability. Wait…(OOPS!).
2. Some liberals will start conjuring up images of Vietnam, which in many cases is in fact not an analysis due to an actual military need and a weighing of plus and minuses but being against any kind of military intervention. You can call their foreign policy approach The Ostrich Doctrine (suggested logo IS HERE). I won’t watch MSNBC’s Chris Hayes anymore after almost putting my foot through my car radio while hearing him on MSNBC on Sirius XM a few times insist there’s no parallel between ISIS and the Nazis. Of course, I was then READING b-o-o-ks and am now reading a top book on ISIS. Knee jerk attempts to say we shouldn’t intervene military coupled with fantasyland about the military and murderous threat ISIS poses are not worth the time to read or listen to or watch. (Mr. Hayes, if ISIS gets a nuke exactly what do you think they’ll do with it— as we get more reports of them burning prisoners alive, and turning off water to whole cities that they seek to conquer, selling women into slavery for a pack of cigarettes and showing little kids beheadings?).
The United States Central Command’s emphasis on retaking Mosul depended critically on efforts to retrain the Iraqi Army, which appear to have gotten off to a slow start. Some Iraqi officials also thought the schedule for taking Mosul was unrealistic, and some bridled when an official from the Central Command told reporters in February that an assault to capture the city was planned for this spring.
Now, pending approval by the White House, plans are being made to use Al Taqqadum, an Iraqi base near the town of Habbaniya, as another training hub for the American-led coalition.
Alistair Baskey, a National Security Council spokesman, said that the administration hoped to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and that “those options include sending additional trainers.”
The United States now has about 3,000 troops, including trainers and advisers, in Iraq. But the steps envisioned by the White House are likely to be called half-measures by critics because they do not call for an expansion of the role of American troops, such as the use of spotters to call in airstrikes.
There has long been debate within the administration about what the first steps in the campaign should be.
Iraq’s army is a pathetic mess. Everyone inside the Pentagon knows this. The White House does too. And setting aside official protest by Baghdad, the Iraqi government is so aware it’s trembling.
But that’s not why ISIS is winning. And to be clear, ISIS is winning.
This is the reality: ISIS is winning.
And that brings out knee-jerk reactions to the need to not employ or to employ massive military forces on the left or right. In “knee-jerk” the emphasis is always on the second word. Policymakers and the military must try to sift through this, weigh the pluses and minuses and try and come up with a solution that can achieve goals in way that isn’t deficient or excessive.
The terrorist group too extreme for al Qaeda now controls 50 percent of Syria and an increasing share of Iraq. It’s conducting suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia and inspiring rocket launches from Gaza into Israel. All this ISIS has accomplished in one year. Despite more than 3,800 airstrikesagainst it.
And this big chunk must be read in full and pondered:
According to Obama, arresting ISIS is an Iraqi responsibility.
This is dishonest. That he takes this position, however, is understandable. The man ushered into office in part on a promise to get America out of Iraq (and Afghanistan) does not want to be the man who did that only to watch that state fail and then go back in. Add to this the polling: While the public wants a U.S. campaign against ISIS, it remains divided over the use of ground troops.
So as Obama’s critics shout about the president putting politics, and legacy, ahead of security, the truth is that his ambivalence reflects the collective churning of the American gut. We think we’ve seen this movie before, and we didn’t like the ending.
But we haven’t seen this movie before because this one is not about Iraq. And after a decade of training Iraqi troops, a few more months of tutoring will not turn this force into one that can defeat what Obama today called the “nimble,” “aggressive,” and “opportunistic” Islamic State fighters.
It’s about ISIS, a lethal, strategically smart and tactically effective adversary whose intentions are not contained by Iraq’s borders.
The United States – under Barack Obama or the next president – can choose to sit this out, to let Sunni fight Shia and then Wahhabi fight Sunni until some resolution is found. The risk associated with this option is that what remains standing could be the slave-holding, woman-raping, Christian- and Jew-killing territory known as the Islamic State, which will not pause to relish victory but instead set sights on Europe and the United States.
Or the United States – under Barack Obama or the next president – can choose to engage aggressively, hoping that a greater assault than what’s being accomplished by U.S. airpower and on-the-ground training will stop ISIS from destroying the governments in the region that still take Washington’s calls. The cost of this choice is great: money and, more importantly, blood.
There are certainly other plausible scenarios between these two extremes. But in any case, this is the debate America should be having. Wait it out and see what might be necessary later, knowing it could be more taxing and destructive than it would be now. Or engage yet again in a region that seems committed to conducting the intra-Muslim war the world so desperately wants the Middle East to avoid.
And, as this is done, not be knee jerk or foolish enough to downplay the brutality and ruthlessness that ISIS will employ in the region or — if it gets a chance — beyond.
— Tea Party (@TeaPartyOrg) June 10, 2015
Obama: 500 more troops to Iraq for training. Same strategy, slightly slipperier slope.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) June 10, 2015
Bush Liberated Iraq….. Obama Surrendered Iraq to his ISIS
— CDM (@RWSurferGirl) June 4, 2015
The proposed plan that a U.S. official told NBC News involves sending “fewer than 500” more military advisers to Iraq was first reported by the New York Times and The Washington Post Tuesday. A final decision has not been announced.
The new strategy comes after Iraqi forces suffered a string of embarrassing defeats to ISIS, including the loss of Anbar province’s capital of Ramadi on May 17.
Related: ‘Ghost Soldiers,’ Ineffective Strikes Allow ISIS to Seize Ramadi
“As the President has noted, we are considering a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces in order to support them in taking the fight to ISIL [ISIS],” National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey said Tuesday.
But according to critics of Obama’s foreign policy and war strategy in Syria and Iraq, everything the administration is doing “right now is making the situation worse” – not better.
That is the sentiment of Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who in a recent interview with the Real News Network said the Pentagon’s plan to send more weapons and troops (whether you call them “trainers” or “advisers” or something else) will only prolong the violence in the region. Describing the situation as “whack-a-mole,” Bennis said the outcomes over the last year have been terrible and that a continuation of the strategy would predictably create more chaos and death for the people of Iraq and Syria.
“We suddenly have the challenge of dealing with ISIS in Ramadi in Iraq,” she explained, “so we’re going to send a huge amount of resources, soldiers and new weapons and whatever, to Ramadi, where in the meantime whether it’s in Syria, whether it’s in Iraq, there are other crisis zones that are being created, even as we speak. And the more weapons that get sent, the more weapons end up in the hands of ISIS. That’s true in Iraq, it’s true in Syria.”
….Meanwhile, in a lengthy article published in The Nation, Sherle R. Schwenninger, director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, argues that the disaster fostered by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria proves without question the overall failure of Obama’s foreign policy mindset. Though he acknowledges that the prevailing criticism in Washington, D.C.—from liberal interventionists and the neoconservatives that drove and supported the failed policies of President George W. Bush—is that Obama has been too timid in his handling of the war in Syria and Iraq, Schwenninger says the reality, in fact, is that “the administration has been too quick on the draw.” If Obama had not worked to funnel supplies of weapons into the region or “done more to restrain our allies from supporting foreign jihadi fighters in both Syria and Iraq,” says Schwenninger, it is possible that “ISIS would not be on the march to the degree that it is today.”
However, he continued, “by helping to open the floodgates for both weapons and fighters, the administration is now looking at an endless new war that will only bleed us morally as well as financially. If Obama had actually acted with the restraint that his critics accuse him of, can anyone seriously say we would be worse off?”
Importantly, Schwenninger points out that among those saying that Obama’s policy is not aggressive enough when it comes to Iraq and Syria, are the same people—including Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham and other prominent war hawks—”who cheered us into the war in Iraq.” The credentials of these critics, he argues, should have thoroughly discredited them, “but over the last several years, they have had a disproportionate influence in shaping a narrative of US foreign policy that is almost as misguided as the one they spun in the lead-up to the Iraq War.”
The fascinating Israeli site Debka.org (which is not always reliable but is a must read and gives tidbits that often explain what is occuring) has a fascinating post which needs to be read in full to add to the perspective. Here’s part of it:
The United States this week began transferring to Iraq and Gulf bases elite units of the US 82nd Airborne Division. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the first batch of 500 officers and men will be deployed in Baghdad and the Kurdish republic’s capital of Irbil, followed by another 500 in July and 250 in December. Altogether, by the end of 2015, the US will have posted another 1,250 officers and men to augment the American force already present at a base ner Habbaniya in the western Iraqi Anbar province. This force, roughly the same size as the incoming contingents, came from the US 3rd Division’s Combat Team which set up the base six months ago to train Iraqi troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIS.
By the end of the year, therefore, the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq will rise to several thousand. Our military sources define their mission as being to intensify raids on ISIS commanders, command centers and bases and striking columns on the move. Their operations will draw on the successful attack mounted by SEAL commandos on May 16 in the heart of the Islamist stronghold in eastern Syria. The group’s chief of finances was killed in that raid and, according to American sources, the troops carried off a rich intelligence trove of digital and telephone data on the Islamist State’s tactics and structure.
The 82nd division has abundant experience of combat in the Iraqi arena. Between the 2003 US invasion and up until 2009, its members fought in critical engagements, especially in Anbar province, which ISIS has made the its main depot for large military concentrations and a launching pad for attacks across Iraq.
The figure of 3,000 American soldiers in Iraq understates the case by far. A much larger pool of combat forces is available close at hand for inserting into the cycle of war on ISIS.
Debka offerse a lot more in their post. Read the post in its entirety.