The US Will Field More than 10,000 Troops in Iraq by February

During a visit this week with the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that about 1,800 soldiers from the division are to be deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, for a mission estimated to last about nine months.
He outlined US plans to defeat the Islamic State and recover the jihadist caliphate’s de facto capitals, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
What this means is that the 101st Airborne’s “Screaming Eagles” will return to Iraq for the first time since playing a crucial role in America’s US 2003 campaign to topple Saddam Hussein and fight al Qaeda wound down in 2007.
Carter described their mission in 2016 as military advisers to the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga forces. According to his plan, the two armies are to close in on Mosul from the north and the south and hold it to siege until its capture.
After that, Carter said, the US combat troop contingents will transfer to Syria to participate in an operation by moderate Syrian forces to recover Raqqa.
In his last State of the Union speech, a day earlier, President Barack Obama gave pride of place to the war on the Islamic State. He said it was important not to “Americanize” conflicts because that would allow extremists to accuse the West of occupying their countries.
But DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources say that is exactly what the US is planning to do.
The American forces to be deployed in Iraq next month include the 2nd Brigade, aka the Strike Brigade. When those soldiers trained last month at the US Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, they heard a different account of their mission from that delivered by the defense secretary.
Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne, told them to “win,” meaning, they will have to fight.
Furthermore, the plan to retake Mosul and Raqqa in the coming months is not realistic, our military sources report. Barring the total collapse of ISIS – an improbable prospect – the two jihadi strongholds will not be captured before President Obama exits the White House and Secretary Carter departs the Pentagon.
This mission is also fatally short of partners.
Neither Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, nor the Kurdish region’s President Masoud Barzani have voiced support for the Mosul operation outlined by Carter. And cooperation between the US and Russia on the Raqqa operation is still a way off, even after Presidents Obama and Putin talked on the phone on Jan. 13.

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