Pentagon: We Haven't Completely Ruled Out Redeploying U.S. Troops to Iraq

Posted: Jan 21, 2014 11:15 AM

For years this type of a contingency plan had been a non-starter. But ever since Fallujah was overrun and the bloodshed in Ramadi escalated, the Pentagon is reportedly keeping all options on the table (via the Navy Times):

The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. troops back to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces, defense officials said Friday.

It is unclear whether troops would be sent directly into Iraq or possibly conduct training in a nearby country such as Jordan. “We are in continuing discussions about how we can improve the Iraqi military,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday.

The idea of sending U.S. military trainers back to Iraq for the first time since 2011 is one the Pentagon has emphatically rejected in recent years, but on Friday, Warren offered a carefully worded statement that did not rule out the possibility.

The move comes in response to the deepening crisis in Anbar province, where militants have seized parts of Fallujah.

Even if the Pentagon doesn’t deploy U.S. service members to Iraq or Jordan specifically for training purposes, an arms deal is supposedly already in the works:

In addition to discussions about trainers, the Pentagon is also fast-tracking approval for a shipment of small arms and ammunition to the Iraqi military, Warren said.

Another defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Pentagon also may be considering a larger shipment of arms that would require notification of Congress. “We are processing a wide range of requests [from the Iraqis’] for continued support,” the defense official said.

Gallup recently discovered that more than half of Americans say the invasion of Iraq was “a mistake.” So it’s hard to imagine the American public would back a strategic, presumably short-term proposal to send U.S. troops back into harm’s way -- if only for training purposes. What’s more, Secretary Kerry has already declared that “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis”; he's categorically denied American boots on the ground is a viable option at this point.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon’s “discussions” about how to improve security in Iraq do raise questions about the timing of the Obama administration’s decision to bring our troops home. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it’s hard to dispute the fact that when the U.S. left, the violence escalated. Still, I'll concede that it’s not in the United States’ long-term national or strategic interests to stay bogged down in Iraq forever -- and Americans did want to end the war. But if the Pentagon is openly considering even the possibility of redeploying U.S. troops now, perhaps it was a mistake to withdraw them as early as we did.

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