The Intercept & RT News & The-Edge.net – 2016-05-03 01:04:53
As More American Boots Hit the Ground in Syria,
US Parses “Boots” and “Ground”
Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons / The Intercept
(April 29, 2016) — After President Obama announced on Monday that he would deploy 250 additional special operations troops to Syria, State Department spokesperson John Kirby tried to deny that Obama had ever promised not to send “boots on the ground” there.
“There was never this ‘no boots on the ground,'” said Kirby. “I don’t know where this keeps coming from.”
The problem for Kirby was that Obama has repeated the promise at least 16 times since 2013:
On August 30, 2013, Obama said: “We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.”
On September 10, 2013, he said: “Many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are ‘still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.’ A veteran put it more bluntly: ‘This nation is sick and tired of war.’ My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”
On September 7, 2014, he said: “In Syria, the boots on the ground have to be Syrian.”
After reporters pointed out the mistake, Kirby tried to walk back his claim by defining the phrase “boots on the ground” to exclude special forces.
“When we talk about boots on the ground, in the context that you have heard people in the administration speak to, we are talking about conventional, large-scale ground troops,” said Kirby. “I’m not disputing the fact that we have troops on the ground, and they’re wearing boots.”
The new deployment will result in a six-fold increase to the 50 US special forces troops already in Syria. There are also 4,000 US troops in Iraq. The White House has insisted that its forces “do not have a combat mission,” and are deployed in an “advise and assist” capacity only, helping to train local militias that engage ISIS directly.
There is, as Kirby indicated, a distinction between a large-scale ground invasion and, say, a small group of advisers hanging back from the front. But the line between “combat” and “assist” missions is not always so clear.
In Iraq, when a US special forces soldier was killed during a raid on an ISIS-held prison, the White House insisted that US forces were only flying helicopters carrying Kurdish commandos, and that it was a “unique circumstance.” They refused to call the exchange “combat,” prompting outrage from veterans groups.
A second American soldier was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq last month, while guarding a US base near Mosul. The White House called it “an enemy action,” not “combat.”
“Advise and assist” may also include providing targeting intelligence for US airstrikes, according to Dan Grazier, a former Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq who is now a fellow with the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight. “With a force the size they’re talking about, they’re probably there to help provide fire support,” Grazier said.
Some veterans are outraged by the administration’s semantics.
“It is a grossly silly assertion that American men and women who are participating in the killing and dying in Iraq and Syria, whether it be directly or indirectly, do not count as boots on the ground,” said Matthew Hoh, who has served as a Marine and at the Pentagon and State Department. “Boots on the ground,” he said, is “a phrase that serves as a dog whistle to those of us who have actually been to war.”
Tyson Manker, a Marine Corps corporal during the invasion of Iraq, argues that the distinction between “boots on the ground” and special forces is meaningless to soldiers overseas. In a statement emailed to The Intercept, Manker wrote: “To Obama, sure it’s meaningful. For the . . . Marines on the ground shooting and getting shot at, not so meaningful.”
The Obama administration has company in Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. During a Democratic debate in February, Clinton said “we will not send American combat troops back to Syria or Iraq. That is off the table. But we do have special forces.”
The administration is also refusing to limit the number of special forces it might send in the future. At a separate press conference Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook wouldn’t deny that the US might send hundreds more special forces soldiers in coming weeks. “We’re going to continue to look at every single opportunity we have, working with our local partners, to see how we can accelerate this campaign,” Cook said.
Pentagon to Increase Number of US Troops in Iraq;
Carter Discusses ‘Accelerating’ ISIS Campaign
(January 21, 2016) — The US plans to increase the number of troops in Iraq as it seeks to “accelerate” its campaign to “crush” Islamic State in the region, the Pentagon chief said. Ash Carter met with his French partner seeking ways to bring Arab states “in the game,” too.
Aside from his bilateral meeting with his counterpart and “good friend,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the US Defense Secretary Carter sat down for the first with seven major members of the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition.
The “face-to-face meeting” included Britain, Germany, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands, all trying to figure out in what ways they could boost their fight against Islamic militants.
“The object of today is to satisfy ourselves that the balance of the campaign is right . . . and that we can now capitalize on the setbacks Daesh has suffered in Iraq and move on to tighten the noose around the head of the snake in Syria in Raqqa,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters.
The coalition’s major goal right now is to target and destroy IS headquarters in Iraq and Syria while also combating their supporters worldwide, “everywhere its metastasis have spread around the world,” the Pentagon stressed.
“We’re doing this by providing a plan, clear leadership and the power of a global coalition wielding a suite of capabilities [that include] airstrikes, special forces, cyber tools, intelligence, equipment, mobility and logistics, and training, advice and assistance,” Carter said.
The counter-IS campaign is a running theme of Carter’s trip to Paris and Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, using it as an “opportunity to talk to some of those same leaders about the same topics.”
Speaking to reporters while en route to Paris, Carter stressed that the military campaign is also about “protecting the American homeland.” He also laid out some of the Pentagon’s plans regarding the coalition and its strategy.
Citing the recent success in taking the city of Ramadi back from the Islamic militants, Carter said he “expects” the number of additional US advisers in Iraq to increase, as well as “the variety of the training they’re giving.”
“So for example, as territory is retaken from IS, as moving up and ultimately including Mosul, there are going to need to be not just ground forces that can seize territory, but police forces that can keep security,” the Defense Secretary said.
Carter did not give an exact number, but said the number of US personnel is going “to increase greatly as the momentum of the effort increases.” He stressed that the reinforcement would involve not only the US, but also its coalition partners.
In this regard, Carter said that one of his goals is to bring Arab countries — “Arabs and Sunni Arabs” — into the military campaign, as they can be “an enormous contribution to this.”
“I want to hear from my counterparts over the next couple of days — how can we get them in the game. I have long said that Arabs and Sunni Arabs need to get in the game,” Carter said on Tuesday.
In February, defense ministers from 26 counter-ISIS coalition nations, plus Iraq, are going to meet in Brussels, all together for the first time, to continue discussions on how to “hasten” the defeat of jihadists.
“Every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight,” Carter said, “and I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward.”
No Boots on the Ground?
Gar Smith / The-Edge.net
(January 24, 2016) — Remember when (not that long ago) President Barack Obama promised not to put any “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria? Well, in December, he announced plans to deploy as many as 150 Special Ops forces in the region (despite the fact that neither Iraq nor Syria has requested or wants these new US troops inside their borders). And this week, Pentagon officials revealed the US has been engaged in “high-level” talks with the Iraqis to send “hundred of additional troops” to the country.
So how does Obama avoid the serious charge that he’s broken his “no boots on the ground” promise? Here’s one possibility:
When the troops arrive, perhaps they won’t actually be wearing military-issued boots. Maybe they will charge into battle bare-footed (How exceedingly macho!). Or perhaps they will be issued some kind of non-boot footwearâ€”like iron-plated sandals or up-armored crocs.
Clearly, Obama needs some help to honor his boot-free vow while sending US troops to attack ISIS and its adherents 6,000 miles from the US homeland. Herewith, a short list of Obamawear for the well-heeled soldier:
Sneakers: For those dicey, behind-the-lines Delta Force rescue missions.
Waders: Perfect if we are going to plunge into another military quagmire.
Clogs: If we’re prepared to get inextricably stuck in another endless war.
Slippers: For negotiating those “slippery slopes.”
Galoshes: For the Navy’s Seal Team Six. (Much more practical than scuba fins.)
Pumps: (Now that women have been cleared for combat) Suitable for seizing oil fields.
Saddle shoes: Because we’ll be saddled with the burden of another endless war.
And we should not forget to send a new load of footwear to the Iraqi forces we’ve spent millions to train.
Based on their performance to date, the shoe of choice would be Loafers. *
Finally, we can all send the President a message by mailing shoes to the Oval Office. And what could be more fitting for a president who breaks his promises than a gift box filled with . . . flip-flops.
In the meantime, I suspect most Americans are growing weary of these needless, heedless, endless conflicts and would be ready to simply say: “War is a croc: give it the boot.”
* This is not meant to disparage any soldiers who have risked their lives to perform their duties.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.