Allen B. West

More troops for Iraq in “non-combat” role – does that mean they’ll be unarmed?

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What an incredible week this has been and I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the results. The 114th Congress will have the largest GOP majority since President Harry Truman and the first GOP Senate majority since 2006. The GOP now has 35 governors and control of 69 of 99 state legislatures. On the other hand, we also had our president issue a huge constitutional challenge with his declared intent to issue an executive order on amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.

And in a Friday surprise, the Obama White House has announced that Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch will be the new U.S. attorney general — yes, the first black woman to hold that job.

However it was the announcement that another 1,500 U.S. troops will be deploying to Iraq — namely Anbar Province — which topped a very newsworthy week.

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What is happening now reminds me of the slow escalation of U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. President Obama continues to issue orders deploying “non-combat trainers and advisors” to Iraq. First of all, as a career military officer and combat veteran, let me explain that if you are deploying troops into a combat zone — and Iraq and Syria are combat zones — there is no such thing as “non-combat” troops. Unless we are deploying these men – and women? — without weapons, they are combat troops.

And so it was in Vietnam. With the slow drip of advisors, we became embroiled in a combat operation that some viewed as a police action. To make matters more confusing and dangerous, Iran is also in Iraq training and advising. The most disconcerting aspect of this for me is that we’re sending troops back into the western Al Anbar province — where ISIS has been gaining much ground and recently committed massive massacres against Sunni tribes who worked with U.S. forces during the Iraq conflagration. So what are the rules of engagement for the advisors and trainers? I certainly pray the policy isn’t tat they are just targets.

As reported by Fox News, “President Obama has approved sending up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, doubling the number being deployed to help Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State. The president also requested an additional $5.6 billion on Friday for the war against the Islamic State, in part to cover the additional deployments. The decisions reflect a deepening U.S. involvement in the region, though the White House again stressed that U.S. personnel “will not be in combat,” but rather training, advising and assisting Iraqi forces near Baghdad and Irbil. Currently, there are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq.”

There are two words that all of us who have served or are serving in the military fear — MISSION CREEP. Those two words are indicative of a lack of strategy but the need to just do something in order to make it seem like there is some action — the appearance of having a plan. So now we have nearly 3,000 American forces in Iraq — equivalent to a brigade — and I just have to ask, what is the command and control relationship and structure?

To the credit of our air strikes, Fox Says “the Islamic State has suffered a number of losses in Iraq, where it is fighting government forces, peshmerga and Shiite militias aided by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Last week, Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Jurf al-Sakher. ISIS also lost Rabia, Mahmoudiyah and Zumar, a string of towns near the Syrian border, last month. Besieged Iraqi troops have also managed to maintain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery outside the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, despite numerous attempts by the Islamic State group to capture it. At the same time, some have warned the U.S. operation is insufficient. In particular, there have been calls to send troops to the western Anbar province, where extremists have been slaughtering men, women and children.”

As a reminder, the generals asked for a residual force somewhere between 12,000-15,000 and were told by President Obama no. We are now about 20 percent of the way there. And why was this done after the midterms? Could this have been political or is this adept strategic posturing? Yes, I say the former — which is again bad national security policy.

Fox reports “U.S. Central Command will also “establish several sites across Iraq that will accommodate the training of 12 Iraqi brigades, specifically nine Iraqi army and three Peshmerga brigades,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. He added, “Over the coming weeks, as we finalize the training site locations, the United States will work with coalition members to determine how many U.S. and coalition personnel will be required at each location for the training effort.””

Let me remind you of a simple military maxim: never relinquish ground you have already seized. But here were are, going back into Iraq to establish military training sites that were already established back in 2011. And please, don’t give me the excuse that a withdrawal was already agreed to – a true leader would have taken a more active role with al-Maliki and not put our nation, and its military in this position. After all, even though we secured surrender documents from Germany and Japan, we didn’t just pack up and go home.

I’m deeply concerned about the mission creep occurring in Iraq without a definitive operational strategy – as a matter of fact, who is the senior commander of the 3,000 U.S. troops who is a full colonel level? The facade continues, but these actions by the Obama administration mask a very gut-wrenching situation — we have no clue as to what our task and purpose truly is in Iraq.

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