Nearly 500 more US Troops sent to Iraq for Mosul Attack in advance of Election Day

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Stars and Stripes is reporting that the number of US troops in Iraq has risen from 4,000 to 4,460 in preparation for the Iraqi government campaign against Mosul.

The WSJ reported that the government of Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-Abadi wants to begin the campaign in October.

Mosul was a city of 2 million in its metropolitan area before Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) took it in June of 2014, and mostly Sunni Arab. It is probably now only 1 million, held by about 4,000 Daesh fighters. Originally the terrorist organization was able to take Mosul because local groups like the Naqshbandi Sufi order cum resistance guerrilla group welcomed Daesh into the city. Some reports speak of a city-wide uprising against the then Iraqi army, which helped to chase them out of the city. But by now everyone in Mosul hates Daesh and the population will likely welcome the Iraqi army as liberators. This is so even though many Sunni Iraqis view the Iraqi government as a Shiite preserve and see the Iraqi military as having been sectarianized by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, Athil al-Nujayfi, the titular governor of Ninewah Province (in which Mosul is located), engaged the prime minister Haydar al-Ibadi in a spirited debate, over the participation of the Shiite militias in the taking of Mosul. Al-Abadi is said to be committed to deploying them, but Sunni Arabs often feel that they have carried out reprisal attacks on Sunnis and fear them..

President Obama reconstituted the Iraq Command of the US military after the fall of most of Sunni Iraq to Daesh fighters in summer of 2014. Many of the personnel are on secure bases in Baghdad, but US trainers and support troops have gotten permission from the Pentagon to get pretty close to the front in order to help the Iraqi military.

If Mosul falls before Election Day in the US, it will undermine a key talking point of the Republican Right, i.e. that Obama is weak on terrorism. (Why they say this is anyone’s guess. Obama has authorized enormously more drone strikes than any other country in the world, and killed Bin Laden. Obama’s counter-terrorism strategies could be questioned on human rights grounds, but not on the grounds that they are a sign of weakness.)

The Democrats will suddenly be the party that defeated Daesh/ ISIL. This is kind of an October surprise of the sort that campaign managers dream of.

It seems a little unlikely that PM al-Abadi cares about US electoral problems. He has his own reasons for wanting to roll up al-Qaeda in Iraq quickly. But his timetable could play into Hillary Clinton’s hands.

Related video:

Aljazeera English: “Inside Story – Is the Iraqi army ready to liberate Mosul?”

13 Responses

  1. According to the S&S, 4,500 US troops are now committed to battle 3,000- 4,500 ISIS fighters in Mosul. The US forces will be backed by more than 6,500 Iraqis!

  2. Speaking of October surprises, there is also the real possibility that , despite American help, the Iraquis will fail to take Mosul or that it may degenerate into a battle between Kurdish forces, shiite militia and Iraqui army.
    That result is not unlikely and it would, of course, give a boost, not only to Republicans in general, but even the idiot Trump.

  3. “The Democrats will suddenly be the party that defeated Daesh/ ISIL. This is kind of an October surprise of the sort that campaign managers dream of.” I doubt this would happen; the Republicans will simply twist it somehow to their benefit.

    • There will still be European and American nihilists who claim loyalty to Daesh, and they will probably stage a revenge attack or two. Western voters don’t really care about the situation on the ground in Iraq/Syria, only the perception of danger to western targets matters to them.
      The fact that a major candidate didn’t know what Aleppo was is indicative of that lack of attention.

  4. I can see how a successful campaign in Mosul might burnish Obama’s legacy, but not how it would benefit Clinton in November. The Libertarian candidate didn’t apparently know where Aleppo is, and Trump, when asked by Larry King if he thought that might have an impact on his supporters, said he frankly didn’t think so.

  5. Why do they say Obama is weak on terrorism? Because it scores well in focus groups. Our political debate has fallen into a truth-free mode, and Republican operatives know that a lie that feels right is a useful political weapon.

  6. Government spokespersons have repeatedly told us that Daesh cannot be defeated militarily only. Then what are the plans especially for Syria when the military defeat is achieved?

  7. I don’t think many US voters, at all, know Mosul from Mobile. And it’s not as if the Ds will be able to trumpet the retaking of Mosul on Obama’s watch without calling attention to its earlier loss on Obama’s watch. There is a strain in the non-thought of many US voters about foreign countries in general, that any bad thing that happened anywhere in the world could and should have been prevented by adequate application of US force, or the credible threat of US force. To this way of thinking, of course Ambassador Stevens would still be alive today had there not been a stand-down order, because the US has forces everywhere in the world able to respond within seconds to any emergency.

    • Mark Tessler at the U of Michigan was involved in a joint US-Iraqi team of pollsters. In 2012 they asked Iraqis if there should be a separation of religion and state. 75% of Sunni Arabs said yes. Mosulis are mostly Sunni Arabs.

  8. Mike Munk, probably 500 American advisors will committed to Mosul. Less than 1000 international advisors from all countries.

    By contrast the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police are likely to commit over 50,000 to reoccupy Mosul. Plus the Golden Division (former Counter Terrorism Forces, former Iraqi Special Operations Forces).

    Doubt the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will allow Popular Mobilization Committee Shia militias to operate inside Mosul.

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