BY RYAN MAURO:
A new poll shows that 45% of Americans would support sending ground troops to Iraq to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) and 37% are opposed. Despite the majority opinion that boots are needed on the ground to uproot ISIS, but there are grave dangers for a strategy where those boots are American.
President Obama has ruled out a combat role for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but the question is what constitutes a “combat role.” The Deputy National Security Advisor says a combat role is “where Americans are on the ground leading the fight.”
About 1,600 American troops have already been sent to protect diplomatic facilities and to advise the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. As I wrote when Obama’s Islamic State strategy was first announced, there’s a realistic possibility that these non-combat troops will find themselves in a combat situation.
The White House is open to the possibility that American advisors could be in “forward-deployed positions” to help Iraqis in combat without engaging in combat themselves. President Obama is understandably hesitant to take that step.
He rejected the advice of General Lloyd Austin, who leads the military in the region as commander of Central Command. Austin wanted a “modest” amount of troops, mostly special operations forces, to become advisors in the battlefield.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey,testified to Congress that requests for U.S. advisors to join Iraqi soldiers in combat were denied. However, President Obama told him that he’d consider each individual request. Meaning, he has not did not ruled it out.
It is unclear if raids on high-value targets by the CIA or military special operators qualify as a forbidden “combat role.” It is very possible that a target like the Islamic State’s “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, could be located and sharing the intelligence with Iraqis deemed too risky. If an airstrike is not possible, then a raid must commence.
The Obama Administration is right in its avoidance of a military role in Iraq similar to what existed before December 2011 when the withdrawal was completed.
From the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 to the ending of combat operations on August 31, 2010, a total of 4,409 U.S. troops and 13 Defense Department civilians were killed and 31,925 troops were injured.
Even after combat operations ended and Operation New Dawn took place from September 2010 to December 2011, 66 U.S. troops were killed and 295 were wounded. This does not count the psychological damage to the U.S. soldiers and the personal toll their families faced.
In addition to the prospective casualties, there are seven reasons to believe that such a role would not be worth the cost and could actually be counterproductive to the goal of destroying the Islamic State.
Read more at Clarion Project