The US war in Iraq is escalating at a remarkable rate, and less than a week after the commencement of the air war, the Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on a proposal to send ground troops into open combat operations against ISIS.
It’s the exact thing US officials have repeatedly promised never to do – send ground troops into combat roles in Iraq. Yet with the Pentagon now having committed to air drops of aid to Yazidis, part of the new air war, they’re already looking toward the next step: a “rescue operation” that would put US boots on the ground, in direct combat with ISIS at the base of Mount Sinjar.
Despite several escalations of the war goals in the past 5 days, US officials are openly getting impatient with the current situation, insisting they have to “do something more than just drop water and supplies” to the Yazidis. That something, in keeping with the usual US strategy, is more war.
British Chinook helicopters are expected to play a major role in the evacuation of Yazidi civilians from the mountain, though the ground combat mission, which is what the 130 “advisers” are there to lay the groundwork for, will be something much bigger.
US combat troops on the ground, even if they are nominally there as a “rescue” team, is a point of no-return for the war, as it is unthinkable that the administration will allow them to engage in a one-off open combat mission and then simply claim mission accomplished, particularly when the stated goals of the air war have grown so far beyond that single mountaintop.
The proposal isn’t finalized, and President Obama hasn’t signed off on it, but the fact that he did allow another 130 troops to head to Irbil to “develop additional options” for the intervention suggests they proposal is more or less a foregone conclusion, and only the details have to be worked out.