2014-07-14 By Ed Timperlake and Robbin Laird
When Americans hear Iraq, they think of a difficult country, far away, with a lot of recent history and little desire to revisit either the history or the country.
When one adds to this a President who ran against his predecessor in part based on Iraqi involvement, one can end up with a desire to do very little and look the other way.
Although understandable, a do nothing or minimalist policy is a high-risk policy.
Iraq is not occurring in a policy vacuum; events throughout the Middle East, including the famous Syrian “red line” are in play as well.
And now we learn that the Administration is reportedly focused on the challenges posed by this question:
At the center of the administration debate is whether to send more military advisers, weaponry and surveillance systems — and, if so, in what numbers, at what cost and at what levels of risk — to a country that American combat troops left in 2011, but that now teeters on the brink of collapse.
While sending American advisers to Iraq would expose them to risks and could embroil them again in conflict, waiting to act may also limit the administration’s ability to counter ISIS and encourage the formation of a more inclusive government in Baghdad.
Although posing the question this way poses significant questions about both the Administration’s strategic triad and the decade long COIN policy, the Kurds as well as ISIS behavior have put another option on the table which the U.S. could take up and execute a successful mission and protect our interests.
ISIS, which is as much an invasion as an internal force, has targeted Iraqi Christians with death and mayhem in mind.
The Kurds have declared their territory as a sanctuary for Christians and other minorities.
The ISIS are bent on the destruction of Iraqi Christians, and the Kurds are coming to their aide. Indeed, the Kurds have demonstrated a level of tolerance in Iraq not evident by other ethnic groups within Iraq itself.
The action of the Kurds in Iraq, and the obvious moral imperative to protect a minority being attacked by Islamic extremists simply because they practice another religion requires U.S. action, rather than standing aside and pondering the abstract future.
It should be noted as well that the Kurds control much of Iraq that the US might care about from a strategic point of view.
Working with the Kurds as a priority as the Maliki government implodes is an option that can provide a leverage point for US political military policy.
And the USN-USMC team provides the means.
The ability to station and supply a Navy Marine Team anywhere around the globe, ready for immediate combat, demonstrates, yet again, why the US Navy Fleets of Carrier Battle Groups and ARG/MEUs are invaluable assets for American military power projection.
The USMC can easily setup a TEMPORARY FOB for 22nd MEU with their MV-22s somewhere in Kurdistan to conduct missions into Iraq proper to rescue Christians and eliminate any ISIS fanatics in the way in the process and then leave.
USS Bush CBG could provide a real combat punch when ISIS mass their forces-or SOCOM/CIA identifies isolated groups.
The French in Mali underscored the point that it was not about COIN; it was about eliminating concentrated forces of the adversary, purusing as possible and then leaving.
This is not about long term occupation and training; this is about the only tiltrotar enabled assault force coming to the aid of the Kurds and Christians, setting up a forward operating base that can influence events in the Nineveh plain, helping move threatened minorities to Kurdish protection, working with those SOF in country, and returning aboard ship.
The U.S. has insertion forces able to engage and withdraw, rather than setting up long-term facilities and providing advisers as targets.
The alternative is to see a strategic chaos overtake any reasonable U.S. objectives in the region, and innocents who can be saved moved to Kurdish protection.
This requires a commitment to the Kurds, which is a statement to others in the region that the American word is worth something and we do not run away.
For earlier pieces on Second Line of Defense see the following: