By: Danielle Apfel
The deployment of 450 addition American troops to Iraq last week is quite the reminder of the ongoing fight against ISIS in the Middle East. The Obama Administration’s stance on fighting ISIS has proven more difficult to uphold than was originally expected, a point made once again.
Yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter informed Congress of the failure of the US military efforts to train native Iraqis in the fight against ISIS. The goal was to have American troops stationed in Iraq in four specialist sites for the purpose of training Iraqis in order to lead a ground campaign against Islamic State insurgents. American troops would be on the ground just long enough to recruit and train local Iraqis this fall, leaving Americans out of direct fighting, and thus allowing the Administration to limit the chance of American casualties.
The Defense Secretary noted that less than a third of the expected Iraqi troops have been recruited. Thus far, around 7,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained, a large addition in the fight against ISIS, but not nearly as significant as the 24,000 recruits that were anticipated.
This predicament comes at a time where both sides of the aisle have a lot to say on how to combat the Islamic State. The debate over how to achieve a more peaceful Middle East will undoubtedly use this upset to indicate a failure in the overall plan. With Republican hawks pushing for more American ground troops to enter the field, and Democratic doves pushing for air strikes or the increased use of native troops, the Administration faces a difficult decision in how to progress.
It will be interesting to see how President Obama faces this setback. After officially pulling US troops out of Iraq over four years ago, 3,550 military personnel still remain. To increase the American military presence once again risks future involvement in a region he swore to let become more self-sufficient and to self-govern. Evidently the Iraqi government needs assistance in fighting ISIS insurgents, but how far the Administration goes to help remains to be seen.
While Iraqi’s struggle over removing the insurgents, the Kurds, a minority ethnic group in the Middle East, have actually had the most success in the region. The US has lately been focusing on supporting the Kurdish militia in the hopes of increasing counter-attack measures. This past Tuesday, the Kurds successfully took back full control of the key Syrian boarder town, Tal Abyad, which had previously been under the command of the Islamic State for more than a year.
It is obvious that some measures against the guerilla warfare of ISIS militants are successful, and some are not. What is yet to be seen is how the Obama Administration will move forward with their campaign against ISIS with this most recent setback.