US to Send More Troops to Iraq Before Mosul Offensive
Andrei AKULOV | 25.03.2016 | OPINION

US to Send More Troops to Iraq Before Mosul Offensive

A US Marine was killed in a rocket attack on March 19. The attack occurred at the Makhmour base outside the Islamic State (IS)-held city of Mosul, the first US firebase that had only become operational a few days before the incident. The location is controlled by Kurdish forces. It is situated near the frontline with the Islamic State (IS) group, which took control of Mosul – the second largest Iraqi city – in 2014.

The US has similar artillery at two other large Iraqi bases, but Makhmour is the only known firebase. That terminology signifies this is a small remote location designed to use its artillery to support infantry troops at forward locations. The Marines will be using their field artillery guns in the coming weeks to help defend Iraqi troops as they move to retake the city. For now, the artillery is to defend another nearby base where American military is training 5,000 Iraqi forces servicemen to make them ready for the operation.

This information had been kept secret. The Pentagon had planned to acknowledge the firebase «this week», a defense official told CNN.

Last December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced the deployment of a 200-man special operations task force to northern Iraq. Some 3,700 American troops are reportedly in the country in advisory role. The existence of a combat unit in Iraq that could be targeted by IS had been unknown until the above mentioned rocket attack.

After the death of the Marine the US administration took a decision to send a detachment of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to boost the forces deployed in Iraq.

The expeditionary unit itself includes about 2,200 troops, and it is integrated to operate on its own with ground troops, aviation units and logistics support.

It is not immediately clear how many Marines from the 26th MEU are deploying to Iraq or whether they are replacing any of the Marines injured in the rocket attack. Anyway, the troop deployment is a direct response to the Marine's death.

This deployment comes despite the fact that President Obama assured the American people many times previously that there would be no combat troops deployed to Iraq.

The events described above confirm the fact that the US-led coalition and the Iraqi military are in the preparatory phase to launch a full-fledged offensive to liberate Mosul. The battle will be the biggest US operation in Iraq since the end of the last war. Actually, it has already been launched. As far back as February 29, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said, multinational forces had begun to cut off the city’s supply and communications lines, and to encircle and isolate Islamic State fighters with cyber and air and ground attacks. «The operations against Mosul have already started», said the General in a surprise statement.

«In other words, you know, we’re isolating Mosul, even as we speak – the same thing with Raqqa. So it is not something that will happen in the deep, deep future», he added.

Mosul, along with the Syrian city of Raqqa, is the heart and headquarters of IS. It is widely believed that with these two strongholds lost, the terrorist group will lose its grip on the territories of Syria and Iraq. Their ability to commit terrorist attacks abroad will be significantly diminished.

Since declaring its caliphate in June 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has conducted or inspired more than 70 terrorist attacks in 20 countries other than Iraq and Syria.

So, the two large scale ground operations are inevitable. The recent events show there’s little time before the combat actions start.

The Russia-US cooperation in Syria is a good example of what the two powers can do together. It would be a logical step to cooperate when the fights in Iraq and Syria get underway.

Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syria operate an intelligence sharing center in Bagdad to boost the anti-IS effort in Iraq.

It is known that the Iraqi Kurds are the US-led coalition’s allies fighting the Islamic State. Moscow is also involved in military cooperation with them. It means Russia and the US are in the same boat. For instance, the first batch of Russian weapons (five 23mm ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns) for the fighters of the Kurdish paramilitary Peshmerga militia has arrived in Iraq.

The weapons shipment also included grenade launchers. «The first batch of weapons came on March 14 and was intended for the Peshmerga militias of Iraqi Kurdistan», the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Artyom Grigoryan, attaché of the Russian Consulate General in the Iraqi town of Erbil, as saying.

With Russia and the US on the same side, Ankara appears to be on the other. Turkey has been reported to launch airstrikes against Kurdish strongholds in northern Iraq.

Actually, Turkey is delivering strikes against the Iraqi Kurds, whom Russia and the US provide with military aid to boost their capability to fight the Islamic State!

Just whose side is Turkey on in the fight against the militants?

Will it also strike Syrian Kurds when the coalition forces launch an operation to liberate Raqqa after Mosul is free?

The Russian government is ready to fully coordinate actions in Syria to take out the Islamic State in Raqqa, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

According to him, it is agreed that Russia will provide its support during the operation to liberate the city.

* * *

On March 19, 2003 US forces invaded Iraq without a resolution of the UN Security Council to set the stage for almost nine years of military occupation. Nominally, the troops withdrew in 2011, but little time before the government started to send servicemen back because the mission has never been accomplished.

The US was also involved in the operation in Libya to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Today the US forces are back to the country preparing for a large-scale operation on the ground.

Libya is not the only country in Africa where the United States has to increase its military presence.

After withdrawing the main forces from Afghanistan it has to intensify its military operations there too.

Actually, the US has to increase its military presence in many places at once. It’s not just presence – the forces are sent overseas to be engaged in real combat. Despite that, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says Russia, the country Washington cooperates with in Syria, is the main enemy.

At the same time, Turkey, whose military is striking the US comrades-in-arms in Iraq, is viewed as an ally. Is it not an example of topsy-turvy foreign policy?

Whatever it is, Russia and the US face the same enemy and must cooperate on equal terms for the benefit of all. They did it is Syria; they can do it in Iraq. 

Tags: Pentagon  Iraq 

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