Obama Sends Commandos to Iraq
Pentagon steps up intelligence support and military aid for local forces
U.S. president Barack Obama has announced that 300 military advisers are heading to Iraq. Washington is also gathering more intelligence on the situation and has been working to provide other military aid.
We don’t know what units these personnel will come from, but other reporting indicates that they will be American commandos. The Army’s Special Forces train to help friends and allies fight insurgents and terrorists, so this makes sense.
So far Iraq’s security forces have fared poorly against fighters from the Sunni extremist group known variously as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Government troops have also appeared to be ill-equipped to handle the situation.
The Green Berets or other American personnel will likely offer both tactical and strategic advice to their Iraqi counterparts, as well as specialized training. The Pentagon calls these kind of missions “foreign internal defense.”
The commandos will join U.S. military staff already in the country, cooperating with local authorities. Since 2011, the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq has had between 100 and 200 people working out of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad at any given time.
Similarly, the new American forces will probably add to the conventional U.S. troops who recently deployed to the country. Earlier this week, Obama announced that he would be sending up to 275 soldiers and Marines to Iraq to help protect American facilities.
U.S. forces might also share operations centers with Iraqi commanders in the near future. These cooperative headquarters could make swapping intelligence much easier.
The commander in chief has insisted that American personnel will not engage in any direct combat against ISIL fighters. “Local forces like Iraqis” must lead the fight against militants, Obama said.
The Pentagon has moved away from large interventions in recent years. The current response bears more similarity to recent efforts in Nigeria than the “shock-and-awe” invasion of Iraq a decade ago.
The American way of war in Africa may well become a broadly accepted model. Intelligence-sharing and military aid are definitely cheaper than full-scale occupations.
Still, air strikes, targeted drone attacks and cruise missiles are still on the table as Washington plots to keep ISIL out Baghdad. But Obama insists that military intervention is not a panacea for better security in Iraq.