Friday, January 09, 2015

The Evolving Iraq War

American forces have been in combat in Iraq, as I noted in what I considered an unconfirmed report; and the Iraqis are receiving MRAPs that we repaired and stored in Kuwait, which will help spearhead Iraqi offensives to eject ISIL from large portions of Iraq that they control.

On the MRAPs:

Over the past two weeks, 250 US-made mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles have been sent to Iraq: 225 to the Iraqi Security Forces and 25 to the government in Kurdistan, according to the US Central Command.

I assume contractors will help maintain them since I doubt Iraq has the capacity to do that job.

Strategypage  (do read it all) covers the battle:

On December 17th 2014 there was a brief battle in Iraq between American troops and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). The Islamic terrorists lost and retreated after taking heavy losses from American ground troops and air attack. ...

This brings us back to the December battle at Ein al Asad, where there were only about a hundred American troops at a base used by thousands of Iraqi troops. The base was deep in ISIL controlled territory and have been surrounded by ISIL for months. Supplies were brought in by air and the American had recently arrived to help train and advise as well as call in air strikes. To the Iraqis the Americans were also sort of good luck charm. To the average Iraqi soldier their American counterparts were masterful warriors who never lost.

The majority of Iraqis did not want the U.S. troops to leave in 2011, but their leaders did not agree because the Americans were always pestering the politicians and officials to be more efficient and less corrupt. Iraqi troops now believe the Americans leaving allowed the Iraqi politicians to destroy the pretty efficient army that had been built between 2003 and 2011. So the presence of so few American troops was good for morale and, since many of the American were special operations types, there were efforts to make sure security around the base was working and, when the ISIL gunmen were spotted approaching in the darkness (the Americans make heavy use of night vision devices) the Americans helped to quickly organize a formidable defense, which was reinforced by American bombers overhead taking out ISIL mortars and armored vehicles. The Islamic terrorists were soon in retreat and more Iraqis became convinced that the key to success was to have a few American troops around.

The Strategypage report also clarifies that our nearly 5,000 troops in Iraq include those assigned to diplomatic facility security, and that our training program is limited to 9 Iraq and 3 Kurdish brigades, even with a more recent increase in trainers that I speculated was intended to double the trained brigades.

Of course, those trainers can and should continue to train brigades after the initial 12 are trained. I just wondered if we wanted more for the initial offensives.

I also find it disturbing that in a bow to reality, our troops are expected to  have their boots in contact with the ground to provide air support to the Iraqis--even as our governments says the policy is not to have them there.

Thus careers could be destroyed if we suffer casualties doing what must be done but which is officially not being done.

Who knew our troops need a status of forces agreement with the White House to protect them from unjust prosecution as much as they need one with the Iraqi government?

UPDATE: As we again get worked up into a panic about training the Iraqi security forces, please remember that we had this panic in 2006--the year before the surge offensive with Iraqi forces in action with us--defeated al Qaeda in Iraq and then smashed up the pro-Iran Shia militias in early 2008.

The Iraqi troops will be good enough to defeat their enemies.