In light of the Iraqi Army’s failure to fight and stabilize their own country, and with the continued green on blue shootings by Taliban Soldiers inside the wire while U.S. and coalition forces sleep or have their backs turned, when is enough, enough?
WASHINGTON — An unspecified number of combat soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division have been ordered to northern Iraq, marking the Pentagon’s latest escalation in what’s been a slow-moving campaign to flush Islamic State fighters from their stronghold in the city of Mosul.
“Additional members of 2/82 BCT are deploying to Iraq on a non-enduring temporary mission to provide additional ‘advise and assist’ support to our Iraq partners as they liberate Mosul,” U.S. officials in Baghdad told Military Times on Sunday.
The unit designation refers to the division’s 2nd Air Brigade Combat Team, a force of more than 4,000 based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
A brigade combat team comprises infantry, artillery and cavalry troops, plus their supply pipeline.
About 1,700 soldiers from the same unit are overseas now, spread between Iraq and Kuwait.
It’s unclear whether the full remainder — approximately 2,500 paratroopers — will receive deployment orders. Earlier this month, a top Army general told Congress there were plans to do precisely that and distribute those personnel within Iraq and Syria.
On Sunday, U.S. officials would say only that this new surge in Mosul will not reunite the entire brigade.
It’s a sensitive topic for several reasons, not the least of which centers around a deepening desire in Washington to limit the perception abroad that America’s military footprint is growing in Iraq and Syria.
The Trump administration also has expressed a desire to limit what information it telegraphs about military strategy.
There are 5,262 U.S. troops authorized to be in Iraq, and another 503 in Syria, officials told Military Times on Sunday.
But the numbers have been considerably larger for quite some time as commanders leverage what they call temporary — or “non-enduring” — assignments like this one involving the 82nd Airborne in Mosul.
It’s believed there are closer to 6,000 Americans in Iraq, not including this new deployment. Nearly 1,000 more are on the ground inside Syria, where several hundred additional personnel arrived in recent weeks to bolster allied forces targeting the city of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital.
The Pentagon is reportedly weighing plans to send upwards of another 1,000 troops there. (Source)
If those plans bear out, the U.S. would have closer to 10,000 military personnel on the ground for a mission officials continue to call advisory.
The deployment announcement comes as U.S. commanders face growing pressure from the White House to intensify the fight against ISIS in both theaters, and step up efforts to dismantle terror groups elsewhere that threaten the U.S. and its interests.