Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that she sees “no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back” to Iraq as the Islamic State terrorist group makes gains…
“I think it’s a very difficult situation and I basically agree with the policies that we are currently following,” Clinton said. “And that is, American air support is available. American intelligence and surveillance is available. American trainers are trying to undo the damage that was done to the Iraqi army by former prime minister Maliki, who bears a very big part of the responsibility for what is happening inside of Iraq today.”
But she said “this has to be fought by and won by Iraqis. There is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back, other than in the capacity as trainers and advisers.”
Battlefield reverses in Iraq and the stepped-up tempo of terrorist strikes in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital in recent days are raising fresh questions about whether U.S. efforts to stand up and train both countries’ armed forces will ever pay off militarily.
Military experts say the Islamic State’s ability to drive Iraqi Security Forces out of Ramadi shows that Iraqis are not yet effective enough to defend their own country, despite billions of dollars spent by U.S. taxpayers to prepare them for the task…
Sean McFate, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said Mr. al-Maliki, who stepped down in 2014 after eight years in office, “severely crippled” the Iraqi army after Mr. Obama withdrew all U.S. combat troops, removing a lot of the top-level commanders whom he felt threatened by, and appointing political allies who didn’t have the experience to lead troops. U.S. money and U.S. advisers couldn’t create an army that could fight.
“We just basically gave out uniforms, gave out weapons and said you’re now Iraqi soldiers,” he said. “That’s simply insufficient to create a security force, which is why they crumbled.”
While President Obama still opposes the use of combat ground troops in Iraq, the White House admits that he still wants the option of sending in special forces for combat operations against Islamic State terrorists.
“The president has clearly ruled out the use of U.S. military personnel in a ground combat role in Iraq,” Earnest said, before adding a clarification that he was “unwilling” to completely ever rule out the use of combat ground troops…
According to the New York Times, two dozen Delta Force commandos entered Syria last week to kill an ISIS leader and about a dozen fighters.
“For exceptions like that I would preserve some wiggle room,” he said. “But as a matter of policy, the president has been clear, that we’ve learned the lessons of the previous Iraqi invasion and that U.S. military cannot be in the situation where we are bearing the load providing for the security of the Iraqi people.”
The logical result of Obama’s policy — which amounts to a kind of warfare-lite — is mission creep and gradual escalation. Send in a few more troops. Allow them to go on patrols with the Iraqis. Let them lead by example. Send in a few more. You might recognize this road; it can lead to another Vietnam.
What are the alternatives? One would be to resurrect Colin Powell’s doctrine of overwhelming force: Send in enough troops to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq once and for all. We conquered and occupied the country once, we could do it again…
But the Islamic State would still hold substantial territory in Syria — and thus present basically the same threat as now. If our aim is really to “destroy” the group, as Obama says, then we would have to wade into the Syrian civil war. Could we end up fighting arm-in-arm with dictator Bashar al-Assad, as we now fight alongside his friends the Iranians? Or, since Obama’s policy is that Assad must go, would we have to occupy that country, too, and take on another project of nation-building? This path leads from bad to worse and has no apparent end.
The other choice is to pull back. This strikes me as the worst course of action — except for all the rest.
We are scraping bottom. Following six years of President Obama’s steady and determined withdrawal from the Middle East, America’s standing in the region has collapsed. And yet the question incessantly asked of the various presidential candidates is not about that. It’s a retrospective hypothetical: Would you have invaded Iraq in 2003 if you had known then what we know now?
The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”
Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.
The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011.
Today the U.S. military has as many as 3,000 troops in Iraq helping to train security forces and more than 35,000 military personnel in the Persian Gulf to reassure and work with our partners. For nearly a year, U.S. warplanes have bombed targets every day in Iraq and Syria — nearly 3,000 airstrikes so far — and Special Operations forces engage against terrorist targets, as last weekend’s raid into Syria proved. In the past few weeks, Washington has begun military training of the Syrian opposition at a cost of $500 million. And the United States is partnering with other countries; today European allies are contributing to the Iraqi air campaign and training mission, and Arab states (and Canada) are part of the strikes in Syria.
Few Americans are clamoring for the next president to seek new military adventures, which is why conservative critics tread so carefully when asked what their chest-thumping rhetoric would mean in practice. When they do outline what should be done, it is hard to see what would change much from the way things are today. Perhaps the United States would augment the air campaign in Iraq by introducing some on-the-ground spotters or add more trainers to help the Iraqis. But these are adjustments to the existing policy, not the kind of fundamental change their advocates claim.
Graham criticized Obama for not keeping a residual security presence in Iraq after troops left the country in 2011. If he was elected president, Graham said he would increase the number of boots on the ground from 3,000 to about 10,000 in order to stymie the growing threat posed by the Islamic militant group, ISIS.
“The longer (ISIS) is allowed to survive in Iraq and Syria, the more likely they are to attack us here at home,” Graham said, acknowledging more troops would mean more American casualties.
“I think 10,000 troops would allow us to train the Iraqi army at a faster pace, give them capability that they don’t have,” he said.
“It will take us thousands of American soldiers over there to protect millions of us back here at home,” the South Carolina Republican added.
In an April CNN-ORC poll, more than two-thirds of Americans — 68% — described ISIS as a very serious threat. But opinion was neatly divided on engagement, with 47% of respondents saying they supported the use of U.S. ground troops against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and 50% saying they were opposed.
Sixty percent of Republicans polled said they were in favor of the use of ground troops, with 37% opposed.
Perhaps the most striking shift in public opinion has been among 18- to 29-year-olds who are becoming increasingly hawkish on the question of U.S. involvement. A Harvard University Institute of Politics survey released in late April showed that 57% of that group favored sending ground troops to participate in a military campaign against ISIS…
“This youngest generation of first-time voters doesn’t have a personal connection to 9/11, to Hurricane Katrina, to [George W.] Bush and then the promise of Obama” as they contemplate foreign policy for the first time, said John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Institute of Politics. “There’s certainly an indication that the youngest voters are interested in a stronger, more forceful foreign policy.”
“We are doing everything through cellphones… It’s hard to do much when you can’t go outside the wire,” said one special operator, using the military jargon for the perimeter of a base.
They blame the hands-off approach on an Obama administration unwilling to risk even small numbers of American lives in battle, burned by the fallout of the loss of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and intent on preserving the legacy of President Barack Obama’s troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“You can’t say ‘We’re with you every step of the way, except when you are going on combat operations,’” said a former senior special operations official briefed on the ISIS campaign.
He and many other officers, current and former, at the conference believe both Mosul and Ramadi could have withstood the assault of the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS, if a small number of U.S. military advisers had been working with Iraqi forces at the front lines.
The attack on Ramadi was a sign of desperation, not strength. It took 16 months of continual clashes with tenacious Iraqi security forces and loyal Sunni tribes before the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, could take Ramadi. Before it fell, the Islamic State already controlled half of the city. Its battlefield rivals were exhausted, and it wanted to give its adherents a psychological boost. Ramadi was a ripe target.
But the Islamic State is not on an unstoppable march. In Iraq, and to some extent Syria, it remains on the defensive. In April, the Islamic State’s defenses in large swaths of Salahuddin Province and the provincial capital, Tikrit, collapsed. In the north, Iraqi Kurds have contained the Islamic State. In Syria, Kurds supported by Iraqi pesh merga forces and by American airstrikes decisively defeated the group in the town of Kobani. Unlike the disastrous fall of Mosul in June 2014, the conquest of Ramadi hasn’t led to a collapse of Iraqi military units…
Anbar was the birthplace of the Sunni awakening movement during the American presence in Iraq. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, initiated an effort in early April to arm the Iraqi Sunni tribes in Anbar so that they could fight the Islamic State. He can now make a strong case that arming the tribes is a crucial priority; seizing this opportunity would also help him regain political strength. In the long term, an effective tribal force in Anbar could allow Mr. Abadi to rely less on the Shiite armed groups…
Ramadi is a reminder that this is a long-term battle, but it is ultimately for the Iraqis to win. American troops should not put their lives on the line once again to give Iraq another chance.
Via the Daily Caller.