Obama says almost 300 troops now 'in and around Iraq'
Despite assurances from the Iraq government, the ISIS terrorists continue to take territory as they close in on Baghdad.
ISIS fighters advanced Tuesday to the city of Baquba, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of Baghdad, where they clashed with Iraqi government forces, eyewitnesses in the city told CNN. ISIS militants stormed the police station there, took control and looted all the weapons before withdrawing.
Government forces have retained control of a number of neighborhoods in Baquba, Iraqi state TV reported. Citing Iraqi military spokesman Qasim Atta, the network reported that Iraqi security forces had killed nine militants near the police station and that ISIS had killed 52 people held in the local jail by throwing hand grenades inside.
Kurdish security sources also reported fighting around Saadiya, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) north of Baghdad, as Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga, seek to retake control from ISIS militants there. The two sides are also battling for control of Bashir village, southwest of Kirkuk city, as terrified civilians flee shelling by ISIS.
In response to the alarming escalation, President Obama dispatched 300 American soldiers to Iraq - most of them to beef up security at our embassy in Baghdad.
"We are hard-wired into their system," the fledgling democracy that America helped institute, said Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. "We can't walk away from it."
About 100 additional forces are being put on standby, most likely in Kuwait, and could be used for airfield management, security and logistics support, officials said.
Separately, three U.S. officials said the White House was considering sending a contingent of special forces soldiers to Iraq. Their limited mission — which has not yet been approved — would focus on training and advising beleaguered Iraqi troops, many of whom have fled their posts across the nation's north and west as the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency has advanced in the worst threat to the country since American troops left in 2011.
Taken together, the developments suggest a willingness by Obama to send Americans into a collapsing security situation in order to quell the brutal fighting in Iraq before it morphs into outright war.
If the U.S. were to deploy an additional team of special forces, the mission almost certainly would be small. One U.S. official said it could be up to 100 special forces soldiers. It also could be authorized only as an advising and training mission — meaning the soldiers would work closely with Iraqi forces that are fighting the insurgency but would not officially be considered combat troops.
The White House would not confirm that special operations forces were under consideration. But spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that while Obama would not send troops back into combat, "He has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces."
It's not clear how quickly the special forces could arrive in Iraq. It's also unknown whether they would remain in Baghdad or be sent to the nation's north, where the Sunni Muslim insurgency has captured large swaths of territory ringing Baghdad, the capital of the Shiite-led government.
If we're going in, we should send enough men and material to make a difference. What's the point otherwise, except President Obama made a political statement that we were done with Iraq and he thinks it would reflect badly on him if we were forced to go back in?
I doubt that 300 soldiers would be enough to fend off thousands of ISIS terrorists who were hell bent on taking our embassy. These cutthroats don't care about international law and would slaughter our diplomats in a heartbeat if given the chance.
As for forcing reforms on Prime Minister Maliki in exchange for military assistance, that's not going to happen. Or, by the time it does, it will be far too late to retreive the situation. If we're going to act, we should do it now and dictate to Maliki later.
The Iraqi army has yet to stop the ISIS from taking a town they have targeted. This does not bode well for the near future, as the terrorists continue to advance on Baghdad.