[Ed. – I’m by no means the first one to notice this, but it bears pointing out again. Obama is dribbling another couple hundred troops to Iraq, bringing the total deployed in country to more than 4,000. But the way they’re distributed, they aren’t concentrated and able to fight or defend themselves according to OUR training and doctrine, and using U.S. power. They’re being dispersed across the landscape and among Iraqi forces, where they are heavily dependent on the Iraqis they’re deployed with for force protection and mission viability. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a recipe for vulnerability and unjustifiable exposure. The latest dribble of troops will be embedded at the battalion level — the lowest tactical level so far, and inevitably exposed to enemy fire. One more point: we aren’t told whether our troops are being embedded with Iran-backed Basiji militias. We can hope not, but all bets have to be off at this point.]
President Barack Obama’s approval of Pentagon efforts to intensify the U.S. effort in Iraq may matter less for the small contingent of troops being added than for the decision to allow them closer to the front lines of the war against Islamic State.
Obama has agreed to send 217 more U.S. troops, bringing the authorized total to 4,087, and to let them “embed at the battalion level,” a step closer to the fighting than previously, Captain Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.
In addition to advising Iraqi forces, the Americans will provide “force protection, fire support and aviation support,” Davis said. That includes U.S.-operated Apache helicopters for the coming battle to retake Mosul, an Islamic State stronghold, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops during a visit to Baghdad.
“My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall,” Obama said in an interview with Charlie Rose that aired Monday on the “CBS Evening News.”
At the White House, the challenge was to describe the moves as a significant step but not one that undermines Obama’s pledge that he won’t embroil U.S. ground forces in sustained combat in Iraq.