As a candidate for re-election, how many times did President Obama take credit for ending the War in Iraq? Perhaps too many to count:
Despite these assurances, however, the war is not over, let alone won. If it was, why on earth is Uncle Sam redeploying troops there?
The U.S. is sending as many as 1,300 more troops to Iraq in late January, the Defense Department announced Friday. The troops will include about 1,000 soldiers in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The rest will be drawn from multiple services. “Their mission will be to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters at a briefing. “This deployment is part of the additional 1,500 troops that the president authorized in November.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed orders Wednesday for the first group of these troops to go to Iraq, the Associated Press reported. “What makes this [deployment] different is simply the geography,” Kirby noted, pointing out the advising teams will operate in the Anbar area and north of Baghdad.
Of course, the administration is adamant these are not “combat troops.” They are merely serving an “advisory role” to help “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. But even if that’s the case that doesn't necessarily diminish the inherent dangers of serving in what is self-evidently a war zone. After all, what are we to make, for example, of reports that US ground troops have recently and already engaged ISIS?
A number of militants have been killed in Islamic State's very first battle with U.S. ground troops after the extremists attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base. The militants attacked Ein al-Asad military base on Sunday where more than 100 U.S. military support troops are based.
Despite launching the surprise attack just after midnight, ISIS's offensive was swiftly repelled when U.S. troops and F18 jets joined in the skirmish in support of the Iraqi Army. Facing both Iraqi and US troops supported by F18 jets, an unknown number of ISIS attackers were killed during the two hour firefight before being forced to retreat.
It’s worth noting, however, that a spokesman for the military called these reports “unfounded.”
Contrary to reports coming out of Iraq, U.S. troops have not engaged in ground combat with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State, according to the task force in charge of running daily operations in the U.S. and coalition mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
"We have seen the recent media stories and there has been absolutely no contact between U.S. military forces on the ground and ISIL (Islamic State) near al Asad airbase or anywhere else in Iraq," said Gary Boucher, a spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. "The reports are unfounded. Throughout the past week, Iraqi security forces have had engagements with ISIL in the vicinity of al Asad Airbase. However, U.S. forces were not a part of those engagements."
Still, it’s perhaps only a matter of time before U.S. ground troops engage the enemy. And even if they don’t, one thing is absolutely certain: This war is not over.
If it was, I suspect re-deploying America's sons and daughters to such a place wouldn't be necessary.