President Obama has announced that he is sending 1,500 troops to Iraq to bolster the international efforts against ISIL. These troops will be used to “train, advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and will bring the total of US forces there to 2,900.
Naturally, Fox News seized on the “assist” portion of their mission:
“The president has repeatedly said the United States will not put American troops in combat roles overseas. He has said it over and over and over: no boots on the ground.”
“So what’s happening now?” concludes Fox News. “Boots on the ground.”
Naturally, Fox News is assumeing “assist” means “combat,” but Fox News has never been reluctant to invent things for President Obama to say (or to ignore things he does say).
Senior administration officials speaking to reporters on background in a conference call yesterday, on the other hand, eschewed inventing news and stuck to the facts, one of which is that “this is not a combat mission.”
A senior administration official told reporters that the administration “will be requesting $5.6 billion for additional overseas contingency operations related to our efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL…that includes, importantly, a $1.6 billion request to establish an Iraq train-and-equip fund, which is a part of our focus on strengthening Iraqi security forces.”
That relates to the decision that the President has made to authorize a deployment of up to 1,500 additional U.S. military personnel to Iraq to participate in that train, advise-and-assist capacity. Clearly, our strategy against ISIL, together with our coalition, has focused on degrading ISIL through our air campaign but also importantly strengthening partners on the ground who can take the fight to ISIL. And what we’ve seen over the last couple of months is action by the Peshmerga and the Kurdish forces in the north to go on offense and increasingly Iraqi security forces becoming organized and beginning to push back against ISIL around Baghdad and in places like Anbar Province.
And Fox News’ boots on the ground? Well, again, since when does Fox News ever do anything remotely related to journalism, as in, reporting facts?:
Our general view here is that we are not limited by geography in our training and support for Iraqi security forces. And what these additional forces will enable is flexibility for our personnel to go to different parts of the country and to provide that function of supporting Iraqi security forces.
It does not change the President’s policy that U.S. forces will not be engaged in combat in Iraq. So even as these forces are able to deploy to different parts of the country to provide the train, advise-and-assist mission, they will not be introduced into combat. That is the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga who will be fighting on the frontlines against ISIL.
CNN, on the other hand, didn’t obsess over “boots on the ground” but settled for spreading fear of “mission creep”:
The White House has insisted that the US operation against ISIS will not include “boots on the ground.” But the new announcement by an administration that made ending foreign wars a core of its foreign policy is likely to fuel new concerns of “mission creep” among the president’s critics.
Which is another way of saying that, eventually, there will be “boots on the ground” – American boots worn by American troops.
It would be a welcome relief if the MSM would spend this much time parsing – or even reporting – the things said by Republicans.
In fact, training is just that: training. As reporters were told, this will be “hands-on training. So this is where we’re going to be able to take up to 12 brigades, again, a mix of Pesh and Iraqi security force brigades at several sites and actually help train them in basic military skills, organizational command and control and leadership functions.”
Additionally, reporters were told that, “the President will request an additional $5.6 billion in overseas contingency operations funding for FY15. June’s OCO budget amendment for fiscal year 2015 “included $58.6 billion; that reflected the cost of the operations in Afghanistan, DOD’s forward presence in the Middle East, and a number of other critical missions, including the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that the President announced in early June.”
The updated request that the President will transmit and that we are announcing today will reflect additional costs that were unanticipated at the time when the President submitted that initial request in June.
Principally, of the $5.6 billion, that reflects our estimate of the costs associated with the counter-ISIL campaign that was just outlined. Just to break that down a little bit, that breaks down as $5 billion for the Department of Defense and about $520 million for the State Department. Within the Department of Defense resources, roughly $3.4 billion of that is to support the ongoing operations, including military advisers, intelligence platforms, and munitions that are being expended in the context of the campaign that is currently underway.
The additional $1.6 billion will support the Iraq train-and-equip mission through a new Iraq train-and-equip fund. These will provide resources to support the training effort that my colleagues will talk about in more detail.
Asked by a reporter whether “the Iraqi security forces need weapons-capability improvements, like Apaches and new M-1s or other types of hardware?” the senior administration official answered,
[A]s you know, we have a robust defense sales program with Iraq and they do have equipment and weapons needs that we continue to meet, as in the shipment of hundreds more Hellfire missiles just this month. But what we’re talking about today is really advise, assist and training, and trying to improve their capabilities, their organizational skills, their ability to provide enablers for themselves or at least to supplement the enablers that they have to help them with the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance capabilities. So it’s really — this is mostly about capabilities. And the robust defense trade relationship that we have with Iraq will continue as well.
What is sad/funny/pathetic and wholly disingenuous, is that while crying that Obama has broken his promise to not commit US forces to combat, Republicans are saying none of this is enough. CNN reports that Republican Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services committee, says that,
“I would urge the President to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how this additional funding supports a new direction. Such clarity is more likely to find swift congressional approval.”
Other than “training, advising, and assisting,” what more is there for President Obama to do other than put “boots on the ground”?Needless to say, this is the very thing Republicans attack Obama for doing, even though he hasn’t done it. Which only goes to show, it’s a lot easier to criticize when you don’t have any ideas of your own.
All of which only goes to underscore Wesley Clark’s point that we need a new national strategy. Clearly, the knee-jerk gainsaying of anything President Obama does is not a viable national strategy.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.