As reported yesterday, in the latest escalation of the "war on ISIS", Obama - winner of the Nobel peace prize for pulling US soldiers out of Iraq - was said to be sending even more US soldiers, pardon military advisors, to Iraq to halt the inexplicable, constant expansion of ISIS, now deep in Syrian territory. Earlier today, this was confirmed when Reuters reported that, as expected, the US will announce on Wednesday plans for a new military base in Iraq's Anbar province and the deployment of around 400 additional U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State, citing an unnamed U.S. official.
The plan would expand the 3,100-strong U.S. contingent of trainers and advisers in Iraq and would mark an adjustment in strategy for President Barack Obama, who is facing mounting criticism for not being tougher in combating Islamic State.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed hope that even a modestly strengthened U.S. presence could help Iraqi forces plan and carry out a counter-attack to retake Anbar's capital Ramadi, which insurgents seized last month.
The expected troop announcement was unlikely to silence Obama's critics, who say the modest contingent of U.S. forces is far from enough to turn the tide of battle.
In an administration in which the aptly named US Freedom Act does precisely the opposite of what its name suggests, it was good to see that the semantic games continue: as Reuters further notes, "Obama was expected to stick to his stance against sending U.S. troops into combat or even close to the front lines, officials said." And yet, he is doing just that.
So Obama is not sending troops, even as there are about to be 3,500 US troops, pardon, military trainers and advisors in Iraq. Is anyone truly fooled by this sad attempt at verbal sleight of hand?
But while soldiers are better known as "advisors", a base is still a base, and as such the US is about to open its 5th military base in Iraq. According to AP, "the extra U.S. training site will be at al-Taqqadum, a desert air base that was a U.S. military hub during the 2003-2011 war. Establishing the training camp will require between 400 and 500 U.S. troops, including trainers, logisticians and security personnel, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because a final administration decision had not been announced.
The U.S. already is training Iraqi troops at four sites — two in the vicinity of Baghdad, one at al-Asad air base in Anbar province and one near Irbil in northern Iraq.
A base which puts not only Syria, but Damascus within easy reach once the Assad regime is overthrown, an outcome which now seems to be just a matter of time.
What is the official explanation for the latest troop, pardon "advisor" surge?
Dempsey said there will be no radical change to the U.S. approach in Iraq. Rather, it is a recognition that the effort has either been too slow or has allowed setbacks where "certain units have not stood and fought." He did not mention the Ramadi rout specifically, but Dempsey previously has said the Iraqis drove out of the city on their own.
"Are there ways to give them more confidence?" This, he said, is among the questions Obama wanted Dempsey and others to answer.
In reality what is really taking place is what we explained yesterday:
it appears the US doesn’t know whether it wants to stick with what was probably the original plan (i.e. wait until ISIS overruns Assad and then storm in with 10,000 marines to ‘liberate’ the country before installing a more ‘agreeable’ leader after some farce of an election) or speed up the process by claiming that Assad is in fact working with ISIS and using the imaginary unholy alliance as an excuse to invade now.
If Washington tends to go with Plan A, it would certainly make sense why Obama told leaders at the G-7 that this US doesn’t “yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis.” The strategy probably goes something like this: 1) bide time until Assad’s army is decimated, 2) issue burn notice on black-flag waving former CIA asset, 3) announce Syria’s liberation, 4) install puppet government, 5) send “you’re welcome” note to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The only thing “incomplete” here is securing public support for ground troops. Lately, the US has begun to float a few “boots on the ground” trial balloons, with some hawks suggesting that forward “spotters” may be necessary in order to make the aerial assault on ISIS more ‘effective’ and today, we get a few more feelers from The White House, as the President is reportedly considering sending additional troops to Iraq “for training.
We can now scratch out the "reportedly" because slowly but surely, the endgame vis-a-vis Syria, and that long overdue Qatari natgas pipeline to Europe, is taking place.