Thursday, June 11, 2015





Yesterday's whispers and speculation were accurate, Barack's sending more into Iraq. Today, the White House issued the following announcement:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary on Additional U.S. Steps in the Counter-ISIL Effort

In furtherance of his comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy the ISIL terrorist group, President Obama has approved additional actions to enhance the implementation of the counter-ISIL campaign.
To improve the capabilities and effectiveness of partners on the ground, the President authorized the deployment of up to 450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province. The President made this decision after a request from Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and upon the recommendation of Secretary Carter and Chairman Dempsey, and with the unanimous support of his national security team. These new advisors will work to build capacity of Iraqi forces, including local tribal fighters, to improve their ability to plan, lead, and conduct operations against ISIL in eastern Anbar under the command of the Prime Minister. This effort will complement the ‎efforts of U.S. and coalition trainers at the four previously-established training sites in Al-Asad, Besmaya, Erbil, and Taji, where over 9,000 Iraqi troops have already been trained, with an additional 3,000 currently in training. These additional U.S. troops will not serve in a combat role and will augment the 3,100 U.S. troops who have already deployed to Iraq.
This train, advise, and assist mission builds on lessons learned during the past several months and is just one aspect of our commitment to support the Iraqi Security Forces. Toward this end, the President has also directed the expedited delivery of essential equipment and materiel in coordination with the central government to Iraqi forces, including Peshmerga and tribal fighters, operating under Iraqi command, to ensure that our partners have the equipment needed to effectively fight ISIL.
The President also approved a comprehensive approach to aid the Iraqi government’s efforts to support the people and communities living in areas newly liberated from ISIL. At the President’s direction, the United States has been working closely with the Iraqi government, the  global counter-ISIL coalition, and the United Nations to develop a holistic framework to help the Iraqi government provide sustained security, services and assistance, and local governance among other key support. The United States fully supports the development of an international fund facilitated by the United Nations to help these communities across Iraq recover.
More broadly, we will continue our efforts to leverage all instruments of power to counter ISIL globally and most importantly, to protect the US Homeland. Thousands of foreign fighters – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq. We remain concerned that these trained fighters will return to their home countries and carry out attacks and seek to inspire supporters to conduct attacks at home, and the President directed his national security team to intensify efforts with coalition partners to stem the flow of foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria.
The President also reaffirmed U.S. support for the efforts of Prime Minister Al-Abadi and other Iraqi leaders to build an inclusive and effective governance structure within which all of Iraq’s diverse communities feel that they have a say in determining the future of their country. In this regard, the U.S. will fully support the plan endorsed by the Council of Ministers on May 19 for the liberation of Anbar, as well as the Iraqi Government’s priority of de-centralization to empower local communities in line with the Iraqi Constitution. This “functional federalism” effort being pursued by the Iraqi government is integral to ensuring that ISIL – once defeated – can never again return to Iraqi soil.

Kristin Donnelly, Alicia Jennings and Halimah Abdullah (NBC News) note, "The U.S. troops will not serve in a combat role and will augment the more than 3,000 U.S. troops who have already deployed to Iraq, according to administration officials. The first wave moving to the Taqaddum base will be forces already in country on the ground, and then the administration will pull additional forces from out of country to that site."  Wolf Blitzner (CNN -- link is video) explained it this way, "President Obama is now planning to send another 450 US troops to Iraq after confessing just days ago that the US lacked a 'complete strategy' for fighting the terrorist group."

On All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text), host Audie Cornish discussed Barack's move with NPR correspondent Tom Bowman:

CORNISH: There are these 450 U.S. military trainers. Is this actually a change in U.S. strategy, or are we seeing more of the same?

BOWMAN: You know, it's really more of the same. The U.S. will now have about 3,500 troops there. And we're seeing a bit of a change in focus with these new troops - trying to get more Sunni tribal members to fight alongside the army that is largely Shia and take on the so-called Islamic State. Now, they'll be working out of a base not too far from Ramadi. It's called Taqaddum, and it's also, interestingly, where the Marines were stationed during the war. And, of course, Ramadi is a provincial capital, as you said, that was seized by ISIS just a several weeks ago.

Later in the broadcast, Cornish spoke with former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker who stated, "I think the real significance of the announcement today is not in the number of trainers. It's in the indication that the U.S. is thinking seriously about this, is engaging, perhaps in a way we haven't so far. So I hope there's more to follow. That would be the significance."  US House Speaker John Boehner participated in a press conference today and was one of many weighing in on the announced action.  Martin Matishak (The Hill) quotes Boehner stating, "I support the tactical move the president's taking, but where's the overarching strategy to deal with state -- the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the region, Iran, and to deal with ISIL and all of their related groups?"

RECOMMENDED:  "Iraq snapshot"