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June 11, 2015

Obama sends more U.S. troops to Iraq for fight against ISIL

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The White House announced it would send additional troops to help train the Iraqi military to fight the Islamic State (ISIL).

450 more troops will join the 3,100 troops that are already there in a training and advisory role. The U.S. has ramped up military efforts against ISIL in the past year as the group has continued to capture territory in northern Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State aims to establish a religious government led by a leader called a caliphate and has carried out a brutal campaign to that end; beheading hostages, kidnapping women and destroying many of the region’s ancient artifacts. It also attracted 31,000 people from around the world to join its forces. One year ago, the group captured Mosul, an important city with strategic importance to the oil industry.

The new troops will allow the U.S. to train Iraqi security forces along with Sunni militia forces, former undersecretary of policy at the Department of Defense Michele Flournoy said. The move is necessary to combat a group that is both “resilient” and a threat to national security, former secretary of defense Leon Panetta said.

But some military experts have less confidence in the strategy. Retired Col. Andrew Bacevich said he thought the policy was only a “modest adjustment” to current U.S. policy, and noted that the U.S. has been trying to effectively train Iraqi forces for 10 years. “We have not succeeded, and I’m a little bit skeptical that the addition of 450 trainers is going to make that much of a difference,” he said.

The move shows that the U.S. overestimates the ability of the Iraqi military to fight ISIL, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni said.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who took over several months after the fall of Mosul, recently called on other countries to help fight ISIL. “We can make sacrifices to fight, but the international community, the international coalition has to support us,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. What is the Islamic State?
  2. Why is the U.S. concerned about the Islamic State in Iraq?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why has it taken so long to push the Islamic State out of Mosul?
  2. What is the difference between combat troops and troops that train and advise others? Why is President Obama reluctant to send combat troops to Iraq?
  3. How should the U.S. and coalition allies respond to the continued threat of ISIL?
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