Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Matt Broomfield / The Independent – 2016-03-21 00:43:08
Iraq War Anniversary: 13 Years Later, US Troops Still Dying
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 20, 2016) — On March 19, 2003, US troops invaded Iraq, setting the stage for almost nine years of military occupation. But even though the US nominally withdrew from Iraq in 2011, it wasn’t long before the Obama Administration was sending troops back in for a whole additional war.
The new ISIS war in Iraq centers largely on fighting the same insurgency as the last war, which raises questions about whether it’s fair to call this a distinct war, or simply a continuation of resistance against the US-installed government, and US troops themselves.
Indeed, the weekend anniversary arrived with news of a US Marine killed in rocket fire from ISIS forces against a military base, and additional US troops were reported wounded in the incident, reminding everyone that 13 years in, US troops are still not just on the ground in Iraq, but in harm’s way.
And while the previous few anniversaries may have fueled reflection on the losses of the initial occupation, in 2016 the attention is turning toward the ever-increasing escalation in the ‘new’ conflict, with the Pentagon admitting that they have far more troops in Iraq than public estimates, and more than the current US agreement with Iraq legally allows.
Having already burst through the cap negotiated with Iraq, the Pentagon continues to push for additional troops all the time, and with officials openly talking about a long, long war against ISIS, the likelihood is that US boots will be on Iraqi soil for decades more.
Pentagon: US Marines Heading to Iraq for Ground Combat
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 20, 2016) — In the wake of the death of a US Marine in northwestern Iraq in an ISIS rocket attack on Saturday, the Pentagon has announced they are in the process of deploying an undisclosed number of additional Marines to Iraq to take part in ground combat against ISIS.
While the escalation is being presented as a response to the rocket fire, which officials continue to insist was a “lucky shot,” officials are also being more straightforward in their intentions for these troops to take part in combat upon deployment, after months of claiming troops in combat were somehow “trainers.”
The number of troops deployed, and how big a force this will have the US up to in Iraq, remains unknown, but the US was already confirmed to have more troops in Iraq than their diplomatic deal with the Abadi government permitted, and has only increased the number of troops since.
Pentagon officials are still being somewhat evasive about the Saturday rocket strikes as well, confirming there were wounded Marines too, but refusing to say how many, beyond “less than five.”
CNN is reporting that the attack was actually against a US firebase which the Pentagon has yet to admit even exists in Iraq yet, and that they had been planning to announce the base’s existence sometime this week, before an ISIS attack apparently ruined the surprise. Pentagon officials had previously indicated that the troops were at an Iraqi military base in the same area.
US Sends in Marines To Join
Ground Fight against ISIS in Iraq
Matt Broomfield / The Independent
(March 20, 2016) — A detachment of US Marines has been dispatched to Iraq to join the ground fight against Isis. The Marines sent are from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), an air-ground fighting force of 2,200 soldiers. However, it is not clear how many of these soldiers will actually be deployed to Iraq.
There are around 3,600 US army personnel already stationed in Iraq. They are leading air strikes against Isis forces, supplying arms to the Kurdish peshmerga, carrying out humanitarian air drops and providing intelligence and support to the Kurdish and Iraqi armies.
There have been occasional ground clashes between Isis fighters and members of the US-led coalition, but the primary role of the US has been in supporting Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops with air strikes as they attempt to retake Isis-controlled territory.
US Special Forces have made occasional forays into Isis territory, for example liberating 70 hostages during a raid in October 2015. A US sergeant was killed in the assault.
The news comes one day after an American Marine was killed in a rocket attack. It was the second combat death of a US serviceman in the country since the US-led intervention against Isis began.
Though the role of the Marines is yet to be revealed, the latest deployment is a significant step towards the use of conventional warfare tactics. Such a shift in policy is a politically divisive move in the US in the aftermath of the protracted and bloody Iraq war.
Speaking in January, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said: “We’re looking for opportunities to do more, and there will be boots on the ground. I want to be clear about that.” His comments were echoed in February by the top-ranking US general in Iraq.
Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland said: “We have shifted from a pure counterinsurgency focus and are now preparing the [Iraqi security forces] to conduct what we refer to as combined arms operations,
“There is a good potential that we will need additional forces to provide those capabilities. The ability to integrate infantry, armor, artillery, air power, engineers and other assets on the battlefield provides the Iraqis with a decisive advantage over a static enemy dug in behind complex obstacle belts.”
A 2015 poll revealed that a slight majority of US citizens were in favor of boots-on-the-ground intervention, with 53 percent of respondents backing the move.
However, an expert on Isis’ brand of eschatological Islamism has warned this move will play into the enemy’s hands, moving a step closer to what Isis theologians believe will be a final battle between Muslims and infidels in Syria.
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