Who Are These American Troops in Iraq?
Pentagon is tight-lipped about its boots on the ground
Washington announced this week it was sending up to 275 troops to Iraq. We don’t know what units have gone to the imperiled nation, but we have some clues.
The Pentagon and U.S. Central Command—which overseas military operations in the Middle East—have both declined to specify who is deploying to Iraq. But reading official press releases, we know the troops came from American bases in the region.
Other reports suggest that the contingent includes both Marines and soldiers. Each of these services has forces in the area that are on call to protect Americans.
The jarheads are likely from a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team. CENTCOM has its own FAST company—members of which are seen in the picture below—but there are other detachments available as well.
These units have around 50 personnel and are designed to provide backup to American military and diplomatic posts around the world.
FAST companies were sent to Libya and Yemen after the 2012 raid in Benghazi. The Marines helped protect the embassies in Tripoli and Sanaa from possible riots or attacks.
These security forces also train regularly for various crisis scenarios. CENTCOM’s Marines trained to help protect the ground combat branch’s missile defense sites in Southwest Asia in December 2013.
The grunts probably come from a contingency response force company. After the Benghazi incident, the Pentagon told its worldwide commands to make sure they had units ready for similar emergencies.
CENTCOM’s reaction force is provided by so-called “regionally aligned forces.” This initiative pairs up troops back in the U.S. with the Pentagon’s global commands.
Now, all of the Pentagon’s regional headquarters have troops ready to go. And the Army has already gotten significant mileage out of these kinds of units.
Soldiers regularly deploy to Kuwait for these temporary tours of duty. The Army’s 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division is currently providing the manpower.
Soldiers from the brigade were already preparing to help evacuate civilians from potential hotspots shortly after they arrived. At least two companies were on call for what the Pentagon calls “non-combatant evacuation operations” by the end of 2013.
Washington has come to rely heavily on these smaller, rotating forces around the world as budgets and forces both shrink. The troops in Iraq are just the latest example of this trend.