- The White House has announced that US president Barack Obama has authorised sending up to 1500 more troops to Iraq. If all 1500 are sent then the number of troops in Iraq will be doubled.
Obama has been adamant that there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq but he had already sent 1500 and if another 1500 go, there will be a total of 3,000 non-boots on the ground. No doubt Senator John McCain who actually thinks there should be boots on the ground in Iraq will be pleased and support the move.
Of course Obama insists that all of these troops are merely to help train and advise the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces that are fighting the Islamic State. The White House announcement said: ""As a part of our strategy for strengthening partners on the ground, President Obama today authorised the deployment of up to 1,500 additional US military personnel in a non-combat role to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces," " The Iraq and Syria missions against the Islamic State come with a price tag. Obama will ask Congress for $5.6 billion to fund operations including $1.6 billion for the "Iraq, Train and Equip Fund".
Some of the new troops will arrive in Iraq within the next few weeks according to a defence official. He also said that some of the new troops will be deployed in the west of Anbar where the Iraqi government forces have been in retreat. General Martin Dempsey recently advised that troops should be sent to Anbar but he wanted the Iraqi government to arm the local Sunni tribes. However, any Sunni tribes who accept that offer are liable to be wiped out by the Islamic State before they ever receive the arms. Dempsey told a news conference that due to recent gains in Anbar ""we need to expand the train, advise and assist mission into al-Anbar province, but the precondition for that is that the government of Iraq is willing to arm the tribes. By the way, we have positive indications that they (Iraqi government) are. But we haven't begun to do it yet.""
There are some reports that advisers are actually joining in battles on occasion. A Daily Beast reporter near the front lines of a battle was told that he could not go further because there were "guests" coming: " “Yes, we want to let you in, but we can’t,” said one high-level Kurdish government official. “We have visitors, you’ll see them,” he stated. As we tried to decipher his cryptic response our answer came: multiple armored Toyotas swept down the mountain, passing within feet of us. The Toyotas were packed with what appeared to be bearded Western Special Operations Forces. I watched the trucks pass and saw for myself the crews inside them. They didn’t wear any identifying insignia but they were visibly Western and appeared to match all the visual characteristics of American special operations soldiers."
With the Republicans in control of both houses the general trend of Obama's war policy of intervening everywhere as the global cop is not likely to change. After all, the present secretary of defense Chuck Hagel is a Republican. Obama will be well positioned to finish his term following the path of his predecesor George W. Bush. Obama has avoided suffering US casualties by not having large contingents of American boots on the ground in his interventions. Obma prefers drones, air attacks, and arming proxy troops who will suffer the casualties, but this does not seem to have given him any popularity boost.