On Wednesday the White House announced it would send up to 450 additional troops to Anbar province in eastern Iraq. The troops will advise and otherwise assist Iraqi forces in their battle against the Islamic State(IS) in the province.
With the addition of these 450 troops, the total number of U.S. military forces in Iraq will now number 3,550, less than four years after the U.S. pulled all of its troops out of the country. The White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, sounded the regular refrain of the Obama administration: “These additional US troops will not serve in a combat role.”In spite of constant bombing by a U.S.-led coalition of IS positions, the group has managed to retain much of the territory it took and has even driven Iraqi forces out of some cities such as Ramadi, although Iraqi forces have taken the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State. There is no sign yet of Iraqi forces being able to retake the major city of Mosul.The new troops are termed "advisers" by the White House. They will provide "operational advice and planning support for Iraqi forces" with the aim of improving their ability to "plan, lead and conduct operations" against the Islamic State, also called ISIS or Daesh. As with the earlier occupation of Iraq, the UK is a junior partner in the campaign against IS. It is sending 125 more trainers to Anbar province as well.The new troops are being sent to a base at Taqaddum, just 15 miles from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar,just recently captured by the Islamic State. The Americans will be in a position where they may be subject to attack by IS and suffer casualties. This might be used as a reason to send even further troops although it could also cause a reaction against intervention. US officials described the new deployment as follows:
The new U.S. forces will begin arriving in six to eight weeks. About a quarter of them will be advisers; the remainder will provide security and other logistics.The U.S. forces will advise the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based at al-Taqaddum, on intelligence gathering, logistics, troop deployments and other tactical and administrative improvements to help them develop a plan to retake of Ramadi. That division includes forces that fled the Islamic State attack on the city last month.Note that most of the troops deployed are to protect the hundred or so advisers. The administration must realize that they are locating in an area where their troops will likely be attacked. Obama has not ruled out further steps to be taken in the fight against the Islamic State. There are obvious signs of mission creep already. Some Republicans including John McCain are urging Obama to further involve the U.S.