Creeping Escalation in Iraq

This week the news of the death of a Navy SEAL in Iraq was able to break through to the headlines. He was “advising” Kurdish troops near Mosul, the largest city occupied by ISIL when he was killed. Hopefully, it will prompt the media to abandon its addiction to Donald Trump and report on something meaningful — the escalating involvement of American troops in Iraq and Syria.

Quietly and persistently, President Obama has been sending more and more troop to Iraq and Syria to “train and advise” indigenous troops fighting ISIL. The presence of over 500 special operations troops has led to a reversal of ISIL successes and has reduced the areas controlled by ISIL by over 40 percent. Within three months of the arrival of new American troops, over 30,000 ISIL troops have been killed, compared to one American casualty. It has been a military success so far, but things are about to change.

The recapture of Mosul will be an American operation. There are no such things as “advisers” in Iraq because everywhere is a frontline, as the recent casualty near Mosul proves. Iraqi troops and their Iranian allies have proven to be unreliable and ineffective against ISIL. Few Americans know it, but even now battalions of special operations troops are preparing for an assault on Mosul.

Unlike Fallujah when Americans gave every civilian a week to leave the city and declared anyone remaining a “combatant,” ISIL is unlikely to allow women and children to leave Mosul. This creates incredible tactical problems for the rules of engagement. Unlike Fallujah where Marines could fire on any person before being shot at, in Mosul the rules of engagement will put our troops at much greater risk due to restrictions. The result will be many more casualties than necessary. Further complicating the situation, the Iraqi government has banned the use of armored vehicles and certain types of close air support.

So if you thought the war in Iraq was winding down, you were wrong. When Bush called in the cavalry when things got grim in Iraq, he called it a “surge.” President Obama simply does not publicize it. Bush wanted to be seen as a “hawk.” President Obama wants to be seen as a “non-interventionist,” but his actions are the same.

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