Doubling the number of troops training and advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces, President Obama has sent 1500 to Iraq in preparation for a large Iraqi and Kurdish offensive against Islamic State (ISIL) fighters. Islamic State forces have been coming into Iraq through Syria to occupy northern and western Iraq.
Not only meant to combat ISIL’s occupation, the sending of the troops is also meant to re-establish the government’s control over Iraqi borders and major roads. Retaking Mosul – a city of almost a million people located north of Baghdad – is another top priority, and the troops offer much needed assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces that have been decimated by the Islamic State.
While the deployment of troops is not entirely surprising since administration officials have hinted at the move for weeks now, the timing could be indicative of a political move. Waiting until the end of midterm elections, it could be interpreted as the Democrats trying not to make an unpopular move that would have affected the elections.
The troops are going to operate at Iraqi bases all around the country, instead of only operating in headquarters in Baghdad and Erbil.
President Obama ran against the Iraqi war in his 2008 campaign and removed all American ground soldiers from combat in 2011. His officials insist that no American forces will be injected back into the fighting.
With Iraqi and Kurdish forces having already begun to slowly regain their territory from Islamic State fighters, the additional troops sent to train and advise will hopefully aid their struggles in retaking their country.