President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of up to 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq on Wednesday to advise and assist local forces in an effort to reverse the recent gains of the Islamic State.
Under the plan, the United States will open a fifth training site in Iraq, with the goal of integrating Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni fighters. The immediate objective is to retake the city of Ramadi, seized by the Islamic State last month.
Obama made the decision at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and based on advice from Pentagon leaders, the White House said. The U.S. troops will not be used in a combat role.
A year ago today , Islamic State (IS) fighters achieved a significant, foreboding victory: the capture of Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. The militants have maintained their momentum in Iraq and Syria despite U.S. and coalition airstrikes which officials claim have killed more than 10,000 fighters in the last 10 months. The death toll at the hands of IS militants is less certain, but a spray of a humanitarian crises spreads across the Levant including seizure of Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus where IS has blocked delivery of food and aid from reaching thousands.
On Monday, speaking at the G-7 in Germany, President Barack Obama had said the U.S. still lacks a "complete strategy" for training Iraqi forces to fight the IS, but that U.S. presence there would remain around 3,000 troops for train-and-assist missions. He continued to say the IS remains "nimble, aggressive and opportunistic." In other related news, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. VA.) today suggested the world community should consider supporting splitting Iraq into three separate states to quell sectarian violence between Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.
What would that mean for oil resources throughout the country? Would Arab states support that move? Is Obama’s authorization for new troops today an about-face from his earlier position and how does it align with what Pentagon leadership envisions? How will the current U.S. strategy for dealing with IS play into the presidential campaigns?
With files from the Associated Press.
Christopher Harmer, Senior Naval Analyst, Institute for the Study of War - a described as a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization dedicated to advancing an informed understanding of U.S. military affairs.
Eric M. Davis, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and past director of the University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He keeps the blog, The New Middle East and has written extensively about IS, Iraq, and Syria.
Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington - a non-profit institution focused on bridging the U.S. and Arab Gulf countries; Ibish is a long-time policy analyst and advocate based in D.C. focusing on Middle East issues; Ibishblog.com