When will US admit Boots on Ground in Iraq (3000 Troops)?

By Juan Cole

President Obama’s announcement that he will send 1500 more troops to Iraq was made on a Friday, a day usually reserved in Washington for the release of bad or embarrassing news that officials hope won’t still be fresh enough for Monday’s newspapers and so will quietly sink.

That these troops will be sent with Iraqi soldiers to al-Anbar Province belies the administration’s repeated denial that it will put boots on the ground. There will soon be 3000 US troops in Iraq. They will be at the scene of battles, embedded with Iraqi units (apparently in the hope that the Iraqi troops will be too embarrassed to run away en masse again in front of foreign guests).

The growing size of the US contingent is not the only news. The US is reestablishing a “command” in Iraq, which administration officials view as necessary to rebuild, or more frankly to build, an Iraqi army. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (in office 2006-2014) appears to have installed so many corrupt and incompetent officers, on the grounds they were loyal to him, that the institution may as well not exist. Half of enlisted men are said to be ghosts, who don’t show up to their postings because they can bribe their commanding officer into letting them be absent.

If there are US troops on the front lines in al-Anbar, where ISIL has been expanding its reach in recent months, then unfortunately there are likely to be US casualties. These are boots on the ground, even if there are not combat platoons going into battle by themselves.

If ISIL really is a dire threat to US security, as administration officials maintain, then they should go to the US public with the news that they are going to have to put thousands of US forces on the ground in Iraq. So far they are trying to spin us, and to pretend that there are just some trainers and advisers. It is far more than that; US special operations forces will be operating in Iraq brigades, likely in part to paint lasers on targets for US warplanes to bomb.

In an age of weasel words and Orwellian diction, it would be refreshing to hear Mr. Obama call this escalation what it is. It is not as if he will be running for office again or needs to win a popularity contest.

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Related video:

AP: “Obama Authorizes 1,500 More Troops for Iraq”

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20 Responses

  1. Given the timing of this release, first Friday after a mid term election, it’s obvious that Mr. Obama is not willing to be honest about it. I know he tried hard to run a sensible foreign policy, but maybe he is finally forced to act with short term political considerations in mind. Sad. It’s so hard to get credit for avoiding stupid military engagements.

    • It’s not that simple. You cannot play poker if you are not able to keep your cards to your chest. I said it elsewhere …: Democracy is not the best political system for conducting remote foreign policy. I hold no light for Vladimir but his task is enviably easy compared to Obama’s.

  2. The troops sent to Iraq were issued combat sneakers, so technically there are no boots on the ground.

  3. Situations change, Obama’s earlier intentions about no boots on the ground have clearly slipped from the eye. He tried to hold them back by asking others to deploy their boots instead but his appeal was received with less than generous enthusiasm, and few local troops, most of whom are economic refugees and only enlisted for the pay, have the qualities necessary for any meaningful stand up to the torrent of messianic ISIL, preferring rather to flee, discarding their military accoutrements as the go. You cannot turn an ordinary civilian into a killing machine by giving him a uniform and a shiny new weapon. It doesn’t work like that, there needs an ideology, some irrational belief structure like Zionism, to make that happen. Furthermore, efforts to encourage religious leaders to preach how ISIL behavior is not Islamic are counterproductive because, whatever the US may wish to believe, Islam in its purest sense is a peaceable faith which such messages only confirm. So, since he’s determined, Heaven knows why, to challenge ISIL to the death Obama needs must put his own boots where no one else is particularly inclined to tread. It will all end in tears, my mother used to say when I became obstreperous or over excited. And she was invariably right.

  4. Mark Smith

    @GregMitch When will media stop using boots on ground phrase which only dehumanizes these guys,serves purpose of political elites.

    • When will media stop using boots on ground phrase which only dehumanizes these guys,,,,

      Never. By using impersonal terms and other euphemisms deaths and maiming of soldiers become tolerable and the recipients of MSM news become suitably desensitized. Reporting something like “The 1500 military personnel in the war zone consist of a thousand fathers who leave behind 2500 children of school age, 1500 sons of whom 500 are less than 23 years of age.” might wake up the scheeple on the home front.

  5. The public was up to their eyeballs with Obama using weasel words and Orwellian diction. That’s what he does. Last Tuesday was their payback. Claiming ISIL is a dire threat to national security is ridiculous in the extreme. However, ISIL is destabilizing a large part of the Middle East in Syria and Iraq as well as southeastern Turkey with the Kurds and now Lebanon by promoting conflict between Sunnis and Shia in the north. People who have doubts about ISIL should watch that 20 minute video about Hezbollah and ISIL. They are very good at starting civil conflicts.

    Sending 1500 more troops to rebuild Maliki’s “corrupt and incompetent ghost army” is much better than the Republicans sending American troops by the tens of thousands to actually fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria. If that happens, they won’t be coming back.

    • Assad is not worried abut IS. Turkey is not worried about IS. But Obama is worried. Very worried. I can’t figure out why. We Americans have no vital (life or death) interest in that hellish desert land. If any IS “fighters” showed up in my town, the local police would wipe them out, assisted by homeowners with AR15s and hunting rifles. If Saudi princes are worried, then they should suit up and go into battle, but it’s easier to pay the Ameriki to fight their wars.

      • We do have an interest in a stable Middle East. ISIS is setting off chaos is Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon. Obama is doing the right thing. If he backs off and ISIS expands, the Republicans will blame him and start down the road to war.

        We can arm and train the Iraqis OR if the Republicans win in 2016 they will send tens of thousands of American combat troops back to Iraq—REAL BOOTS ON THE GROUND AND A REAL WAR.

        Take your pick…..A or B?

  6. In an age of weasel words and Orwellian diction, it would be refreshing to hear Mr. Obama call this escalation what it is. It is not as if he will be running for office again or needs to win a popularity contest.

    Don’t hold your breath on that one. A six-year habit is hard to break.

  7. My opinion only,
    but I don’t think corruption necessarily makes an army ineffective.
    The most corrupt military in the world today is also the most effective.
    .
    The US DoD exists primarily to enrich the already wealthy. National defense is an afterthought.
    And yet, ISIL treasures the fact that we are declaring war on them, because that puts them in the big leagues, ahead of even China or Russia as a military threat.
    .

  8. Why do we never learn from our past mistakes? Why is it so hard for any president to have an honest conversation with the American people? The only reason President Obama is re-engaging in Iraq is due to mounting public opinion. Then, when the result of of that public pressure for “action” requires sending in US troops, he shies away from sending the public the bill. Someone needs to keep us honest. Obama should be very clear what the costs of this adventure are going to be. He surely knows, as does anyone who’s ever had to sit down and write a letter to a family of a fallen soldier. The DoD, despite all criticism, has tried to be an honest broker on the ISIS fight since the beginning.

    A fair question would be: if Obama feels the need to sugar-coat this to the public, then why? He has been appropriately cautious throughout.

  9. Putting a few US soldiers in harms way, or even close to harms way, has a huge multiplier affect in terms of any manner of support needed for their safety. It provides the rationale for virtually unlimited air support, logistical support, facilities construction, intel, medevac, and of course control over types and quantities of weapons provided to the allied forces..

    This sort of halo affect can allow a much larger and fiercer war fighting American role against IS—-. No politician is going to turn a general down on requests that protect “trainers on the ground”.

    The morale of the trainees will no doubt improve when they see how much war fighting support they gain from having a few American soldiers around.

  10. Heard an interesting question the other night . . .

    – Who is “training” the very successful ISIL fighters?

    Which echos the questions:

    – Who “trained” the Vietnamese fighters that successfully defeated the USA?

    – Who “trained” the Afghan fighters that successfully defeated the Brits – THREE TIMES?

    – Who “trained” the Afghan fighters that successfully defeated the USSR?

    – Who “trained” the Afghan fighters that successfully defeated the USA?

    The basic reality is, if the Iraqis need “training,” they have no capacity to avoid losing and the US should simply watch them lose and deal with ISIL on a political basis, because once they have to actually govern, they will change their behavior.

    ISIL is a gang of thugs, but if the locals do not have the will power to kill them, why should Americans try to kill them.

    If Obama thinks that the US should send its cannon fodder to the Mid east again, then he needs a clean declaration of war from congress just as the Constitution demands, so the American public knows exactly which congress critters voted to be to skinned alive (voted for war)..

    • >Who “trained” the Afghan fighters that successfully defeated the Brits – THREE TIMES?

      I think you need to brush up on your history.

      • There were three anglo-afghan wars (1843, 1879 & 1919) during which the Brits were only able to achieve partial control after the second war and suffered major losses in all three wars. All of which still begs the question, after a long history of people, INCLUDING the US colonials, of defeating supposedly much better military WITHOUT formal training, HOW exactly is US training going to make any difference against ISIL if the locals do not care enough to fight. Note that the Kurd are doing OK against ISIL even though they are severely handicapped by Turkey and are not getting adequate supplies from the US. The difference is the Kurds care about remaining independent. If Obama had any balls, he would strong arm Turkey big time to get the Kurds every modern weapon they wanted including short range missiles. Kurds will fight (without “training”) whereas the Iraqi Shia and Sunni are wimps when it comes to fighting ISIL. Nothing the US can do will transplant a backbone into the Iraqis.

        • >There were three anglo-afghan wars (1843, 1879 & 1919)

          Yes, the first of which was an afghan victory, the second was a british one, while the third was mixed but arguably it was another overall british gain.

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