We left Iraq, we went back into Iraq (on an advise-and-assist mission), we conducted a few airstrikes, and the Islamic State is still around. They’re not degraded, and they’re certainly not destroyed. Our policy with dealing with this brutal, apocalyptic-centered, and unhinged Muslim terrorist group has been an abject failure. While the news cycle has been dominated by 2016 presidential politics, the budget deal, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as our new speaker, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had this to say last night (via NBC News):
…[T]he U.S. will begin "direct action on the ground" against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, aiming to intensify pressure on the militants as progress against them remains elusive.
"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee, using an alternative name for the militant group.
This may mean some American soldiers "will be in harm's way, no question about it," Carter said last week.
After months of denying that U.S. troops would be in any combat role in Iraq, Carter late last week in a response to a question posed by NBC News, also acknowledged that the situation U.S. soldiers found themselves in during the raid in Hawija was combat.
"This is combat and things are complicated," Carter said.
During Tuesday's Senate hearing, Carter said Wheeler "was killed in combat."
As Cortney wrote, a U.S. Special Forces member was killed in action during a raid that freed 70 hostages from an ISIS-run prison in northern Iraq last week. He was later identified as Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler. At the time, the Obama administration was calling it an “advise-and-assist” mission.
It’s no secret that our policy against ISIS has been an abject disaster. In the Syrian theater, the program to train Syrian rebels–with the initial goal of 5,400 troops a year–ended with only four to five men fighting ISIS in the country. In September, Gen. Lloyd Austin of U.S. Central Command delivered this ignominious update before the Senate Armed Services Committee. This was a $500 million program. To make matters worse, later that month, there was the allegation that one of the Syrian rebel officers defected to the al-Qaeda. The jig was up. Earlier this month, the Pentagon scrapped the program, and now we’re here.
Right now, our objective is to bring the battle to Raqqa, ISIS’ capital, by airdropping ammo to Kurdish and other Arab fighters in the region. According to The Washington Post, that’s not going smoothly either, with Turkey being very uneasy about the entire situation since we have tenuous relations with the Syrian Kurds, aka the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, who they think are tied to the Kurdistan Workers’’ Party (PKK), which is a terrorist group.
This action in Iraq and Syria regarding our forces marks another reversal of Obama foreign policy. The other being prolonging our stay in Afghanistan.