Over the past couple of weeks, Pentagon officials have been talking up planned further escalations of the war in Iraq, and today started their latest move, announcing 217 more US ground troops, along with attack helicopters will be heading to the front lines around Mosul.
The deployment is the formal point at which the US will be violating its deal with the Iraqi government, wherein US ground troops were to be capped at 3,870. The Pentagon has admitted having almost 5,000 troops in Iraq for months, but didn’t count many, listing them as “temporary” even though they have no end date for their deployment. Today’s move will put the “official” figure at over 4,000.
The inclusion of Apache helicopters in the escalation is also noteworthy, as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has been pushing those for months, with Iraq’s government repeatedly rejecting the idea during previous offensives.
Iraqi officials are conspicuously silent on the new announcement, with the country in the middle of a major political crisis centering around the nominated cabinet and the firing of the parliamentary speaker.
This might be deliberate timing on the Pentagon’s part, as Prime Minister Abadi has been under considerable political pressure to resist further increases in US ground troops, but with so much else going on right now, probably doesn’t have the clout to do anything about it anyhow.
The Pentagon has also suggested they will soon announce another 200 ground troops for the war in neighboring Syria, though that announcement has yet to become official. The US is estimated to have about 50 troops in Syria right now, in addition to the about 5,000 troops in Iraq.