More U.S. military personnel have been sent to Iraq and Syria. Trainers, Special Forces, and airstrikes haven’t been enough. The administration continues its slow progression to renewed ground combat. President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize grows more tarnished by the day.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter informed Congress last month that a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” would be sent to Iraq on top of the 3500 personnel already there, with the authority to operate in Syria too. This mix of Special Forces “will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders,” explained Carter. Where greater opportunities appear to work with local forces, he added, “We are prepared to expand it.”
This follows an increase in airstrikes in November. Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “in the days ahead, we’ll be aggressive in looking for ways to reinforce success. And we’ll seize every opportunity to increase the tempo and effectiveness of our operations.” Unfortunately, no matter how active these forces, they won’t turn around a 16-month deadlock. The more men and materiel the president commits to “win,” whatever that means, the more he will have to introduce after the failure of every successive escalation.
Secretary Carter said the raids would be conducted “at the invitation of the Iraqi government.” Yet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi quickly declared that while his people welcomed Western support, namely weapons, training, and airstrikes, “we confirm that Iraq has enough men and resolve to defeat Daesh and other similar criminal groups.” Indeed, Iraq is a manpower-rich nation. The problem is sectarian misgovernance, which caused Sunni tribes and former Baathists to travel back to the 7th Century and ally with ISIL.
The president’s promise not to commit “boots on the ground” already was trampled underfoot in October, when a Delta Force soldier was killed while accompanying Kurdish forces on a raid in Iraq. MSgt. Joshua Wheeler was the first American killed in combat since America’s exit in 2011. Many more are likely to follow.
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