Though the majority of US ground troops in Iraq remain in and around Baghdad, a group of special forces has been sent northward into Kurdistan to set up a second “Joint Operations Center” in Irbil.
Setting up a center in Kurdistan is an odd choice, since the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is nearing secession from Iraq, and certainly wouldn’t allow Iraqi ground forces in for “joint” missions with the Americans.
It also goes against what US officials say is the primary focus of their “advisory” mission right now: assessing the Iraqi military. Officials say the troops in Baghdad are doing that, but the ones in Irbil are far away from any Iraqi military personnel.
And while officials continue to insist the troops won’t engage in combat, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says that the war may “get to the point” where they start launching airstrikes against ISIS.
All signs point to the US “advisers” getting ready for direct combat operations in both Iraq and Kurdistan, with the Pentagon shipping Apache attack helicopters to Baghdad to “protect American interests” in the capital, and deploying combat troops to fly them.