If you haven't read the Associated Press article about the American effort to train Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State (IS) militants, then the following should serve as a wake-up call to those who are concerned about our position in Iraq — especially those in the Congress who would like to send American troops into that quagmire. Here are some excerpts from that article.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the house Armed Services Committee that the U.S. had envisioned training 24,000 Iraqi security forces by this fall, but the U.S. received only enough recruits to train 7,000 — in addition to about 2,000 counter-terrorism service personnel. So far, the U.S. is advising local Iraqi forces and not engaging in combat against IS militants.
The White House announced last week that it was sending up to 450 more U.S. troops to a new base in Anbar province in western Iraq to advise Iraqis on planning and execution of a counteroffensive to retain Ramadi, the provincial capital. Asked whether the 450 extra troops will make a difference in the fight against IS, Carter said the numbers are not as significant as the location, which is in the heart of Sunni territory.
"As I've told Iraqi leaders, while the United States is open to supporting Iraq more than we already are," Carter said, "we must see a greater commitment from all parts of the Iraqi government." The U.S. is pushing for a more inclusive government in Baghdad that represents Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, Iraq's three major ethnic groups.
Carter's testimony was interrupted by an anti-war protester who shouted, "We need a political solution."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also testified, said the U.S. needs to be patient and not give up on the Iraqi government's ability to fight IS. Many Republicans in Congress, however, are leery and say the U.S. should not rely on the Iraqis.
"There is a sense that we are at a particularly perilous time and that U.S. policy and strategy are inadequate," said committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.
Rep. Adam Smith, the committee's ranking Democrat, cautioned that the might of the U.S. military alone will not defeat IS. "We can drop 200,000 U.S. troops in the middle of this and it won't solve the problem," he said.
All of this makes you wonder if we have learned anything at all from our bitter experience in Iraq (and the Middle East in general) over the past 12 years.
Beau Weisman, Editor