Mark Collins – Special US Boots in Iraq Combat vs ISIS (plus Syria)

This POTUS pledge,

…President Obama’s oft-repeated insistence that he would put no “boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria. (By “no boots,” Obama explained, he really meant no “Iraq-style invasion,” no “battalions that are moving across the desert.”)…

is looking ever-thinner what with US special forces also active in Syria with the Kurds, and now this:

Army’s Delta Force begins to target ISIS

The U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force [more here] operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS operatives have begun in Iraq, after several weeks of covert preparation, an administration official with direct knowledge of the force’s activities told CNN.

The official said the group has spent the last several weeks preparing, including setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units [hmm–the latter are the troops the Canadian Forces are advising and assisting]. It’s the same strategy that Special Operations forces have used in previous deployments to combat zones.

Several Pentagon and military officials declined to discuss specifics of the so-called Expeditionary Targeting Force with CNN.

But Defense Secretary Ash Carter seemed to confirm in comments made at the Pentagon on Monday that the Special Operations forces had begun missions.

“The only thing I’ll say is the (Expeditionary Targeting Force) is in position, it is having an effect and operating, and I expect it to be a very effective part of our acceleration campaign,” he said during a press conference.

According to Carter, the force will conduct raids, seize places and people, and free ISIS-held hostages and prisoners.

Carter also told reporters that the force would cause ISIS “to fear that anywhere, anytime, it may be struck.”

A U.S. official told CNN that Carter’s statement reflects that Delta operations have begun.

…Based on several interviews with U.S. officials however, a growing role is rapidly emerging for Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria.

CNN has learned that Delta Force plans to replicate the strategy that Special Operations forces used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan: Gather enough intelligence to stage raids on terror compounds and hideouts. Then from intelligence gathered at those sites, such as laptops and cellphones, forces will try to rapidly learn more about ISIS networks and quickly attack additional related targets…

Canada for its part will be in a better position to  provide intelligence to assist the Americans, which we are already doing:

Fighting ISIS: Boosting Canadian Intelligence in-Theatre

It would also seem likely that US special forces, along with British and French (others?) are also present here (note “Comments”):

Libya: Serious Western Intervention Approaching? Canada?

Just remember the last time:

How SecState Clinton Was Instrumental in Creating the Libyan Mess

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


18 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Special US Boots in Iraq Combat vs ISIS (plus Syria)”

  1. At Defense One’s D-Brief (further links at original):

    ‘The battle for Mosul has begun, and it’s going to be the biggest U.S. operation in Iraq since the end of the last war, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford on Monday [Feb. 29].

    Multinational forces have begun to cut off the city’s supply and communications lines, and to encircle and isolate Islamic State fighters with cyber and air and ground attacks, writes Defense One’s Kevin Baron. Some coalition forces are already going after ISIS inside Mosul, and the final thrust to retake it should be expected sooner than the distant future, Dunford said.

    The idea: “Rather than sending brigades of U.S. forces to reinvade Mosul, the Obama administration has deployed special operators to target ISIS leaders and dispatched thousands of advisors, who have spent months preparing Iraqi, Kurd, and other local forces to do the job,” writes Baron.

    But the strategy has drawn “blistering criticism from seasoned diplomats, former generals, and Republican leaders and presidential candidates, who have argued that greater U.S. military intervention could have broken ISIS sooner and saved innocents.”

    Still, the push into Mosul will require more American forces than were involved in the recent retaking of the southern Iraqi city of Ramadi, and will be shaped by lessons from that earlier campaign.

    How so? Read on here…’

    Mark Collins

  2. And at Foreign Policy’s Situation Report (further links at original):

    ‘Mosul next. American military officials are mulling over the Iraqi plan to retake the city of Mosul, and drawing up their own pitch to Baghdad to provide American help to wrest the city from the grip of the Islamic State. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday [Feb. 29] the U.S. is ready to help the Iraqis as they push north toward Mosul in the coming months, and “we fully expect to be doing more.”

    But like the recent fight for Ramadi, American and Iraqi officials may have different views of what that help might look like. During a trip to Baghdad late last year, Carter offered to send U.S. -piloted Apache helicopters and to embed American advisors in Iraqi army units, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi turned him down.

    Appearing with Carter on Monday at a Pentagon press briefing, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iraqi leaders had already shared their plan for moving on Mosul with Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. commander for Iraq and Syria. Dunford said MacFarland is working on a U.S. response, which likely again includes advisors and Apaches for close support of Iraqi troops.

    As we recently reported in SitRep, a small contingent of U.S. trainers and advisors are already in place near Mosul, and U.S. military officials expect the assault to include between eight and 12 Iraqi army brigades to liberate the city, which ISIS has held for almost two years…’

    Mark Collins

  3. Not so fast towards Mosul–at Defense One’s “D-Brief”, further links at original:

    ‘Iraq’s major players all want a role in the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, and that’s preventing any meaningful military planning for the coming offensive—which some U.S. and Iraqi officials are now saying won’t even begin this year, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night.

    The competing claimants include Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Iraq’s Sunni tribes, and the Kurds based at Erbil some 50 miles east of Mosul.

    Also not in anyone’s plans: “a plan for the post-liberation period,” said Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the Peshmerga.

    While U.S. officials tussle quietly with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over green-lighting/red-lighting Shia militias for a Mosul operation, Baghdad went ahead and “moved at least two infantry units and heavy equipment to Makhmour, a base about 60 miles southeast of Mosul.” Read the rest, here. Or check out this deep-dive into the shaping that goes on daily ahead of any big offensive on the city, from Defense One’s Kevin Baron, here…’

    Mark Collins

  4. Lots more US troops in Iraq than Pentagon has said–at Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report” (further links at original):

    Count off. The Pentagon is refusing to release the total number of U.S. troops it has deployed to Iraq, FP’s Paul McLeary writes. Despite claiming for months that it has about 3,800 forces deployed to the training and advising mission there, the real number is closer to 5,000 when all of the temporary, or short-term, deployments are taken into account. The numbers game gives the American public a false picture of how many Americans are actually in harm’s way, but it remains official policy. On Monday, a Baghdad-based military spokesman for the U.S. effort in Iraq told reporters he had been ordered not to divulge the true number.

    The issue came to light after an American Marine on a previously undisclosed mission was killed in Iraq on Saturday, after two Katyusha rockets launched by Islamic State fighters slammed into his secret outpost in the country’s north. His death forced the Pentagon to confirm the deployment of many as 200 Marines at a firebase just 50 miles south of the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul. The base was attacked again on Monday by a small team of ISIS fighters, but were repelled by the Marines…”

    Mark Collins

    1. More boots and Apaches confirmed–note Kurds:

      ‘U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Beat ISIS in Iraq, Ashton Carter Says

      The United States will send 217 more troops, including additional special operations forces, to Iraq as part of a growing train-and-advise effort to help the struggling government fight ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday morning in Baghdad.

      The financially strapped Iraqis have also accepted America’s offer of Apache attack helicopters and an additional HIMARS rocket system as they prepare to try to retake the city of Mosul from the terror group, Carter said. The United States will also contribute $415 million to the Peshmerga, a Kurdish military group.

      The move will boost the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 4,087, a senior U.S. military official said…

      Carter said the Mosul effort will bring U.S. troops “closer to the action” by remaining close to Iraqi forces as they advance toward the city…’

      Mark Collins

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