President Obama’s desperation to keep up the “no boots on the ground” pretense in Iraq, at least in some vague way, meant limiting the ever-growing, but officially “non-combat” troops from being put too close to the front-lines in places where heavy fighting might happen.
Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend today confirmed that under President Trump, those restrictions have been loosened quite a bit, and the troops are being embedded closer and closer to the front lines all the time, particularly around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Iraqi forces have taken eastern Mosul, but the western half of the city is more heavily defended, and in addition to heavy US air support, it could well be that the Iraqi military, finding itself increasingly stretched by occupying all these Sunni areas, will expect the US to start participating in ground fighting as well.
Though Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to avoid specifics, saying the military needs “confidentiality” in their Iraq operations, the possibility of the US troops suddenly being front-line fighters after a long-standing effort to brand them as non-combat could see a big spike in casualties, and one the American public isn’t ready for.
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