President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent of 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq’s beleaguered armies repel Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country.
The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive plan against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately.
While stressing that he will not send combat troops back to Iraq, Obama however announced a series of plans to improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the insurgent army, and perhaps pave the way for eventual U.S. airstrikes.
“We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” Obama said via USA today.
The troops will first be based in Baghdad, primarily at senior-level command centres and then at brigade level, with a focus on assessing what additional support is required by the Iraqi military. Senior administration officials said they might later be based outside the capital in places such as northern Iraq.
Their presence on the ground, and close to the field of battle, is also intended to provide the US with intelligence that could be used to guide any air or missile strikes.
Obama’s decision immediately came under criticism from congressional Republicans.
“The plan that the president announced today in response to the rapid terrorist expansion in Iraq underestimates the seriousness of the threat,” Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
-DONNA ABIGAIL L. BULA
LNU, ABCom Intern