More non-boots on the non-ground

Maybe they’ll be wearing loafers or floating above the ground or something:

Another 560 U.S. troops are being sent to Iraq, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday during a visit to the Iraqi capital — the latest increase in a troop cap that will now go from 4,087 to 4,647.

The additional troops, which Carter announced during a troop talk following a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, are the latest escalation in the two-year U.S. campaign against ISIL. The increase was approved by President Barack Obama, who ran for president in 2008 on a pledge to end U.S. involvement in wars in the Middle East.

It is now clear, though, that he will leave office with U.S. troops still fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 560 new troops will be deploying to Iraq soon — “days and weeks, not months,” Carter said — and will be mostly based at a key air hub retaken over the weekend from the Islamic State.

That hub, the Qayyarah Airfield (formerly the Saddam Airfield, by the way), was taken by Iraqi forces over the weekend, reportedly killing 38 ISIS fighters in the process. It sits a scant 60 km south of Mosul, close enough to be used as a staging area for helicopters and close attack aircraft whenever the offensive to retake that city gets going. I’m no military strategist, but I wouldn’t expect to see that offensive take shape particularly soon. ISIS is losing ground, but it’s also likely coalescing its remaining strength around Mosul, and it’s unlikely to let Mosul go as easily as it let Ramadi and Fallujah go (and both of those were fairly hard-won affairs as it was). There’s also the issue of the estimated 1.7 million civilians who will be impacted by the eventual assault on Mosul–you would hope, though there’s no reason to expect it, that some kind of planning will be undertaken to minimize the loss of civilian life and to reduce or at least prepare for the possibility of another massive wave of displaced persons.



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