Iraq’s Probably Going to Need Help Taking Back Its Country

But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said no U.S. troops will perform combat missions.

Members of the Al-Abbas brigades, who volunteered to protect the Shiite Muslim holy sites in Karbala against Sunni militants fighting the Baghdad government, parade in the streets of the Shrine city on June 26, 2014. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki conceded that political measures are needed alongside military action to repel a Sunni insurgent offensive that is threatening to tear Iraq apart.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
July 3, 2014, 9:55 a.m.

While ini­tial U.S. as­sess­ments sug­gest that Ir­aq’s se­cur­ity forces are able to de­fend Bagh­dad, what about tak­ing back parts of the coun­try that have been lost to in­sur­gents?

Well, the Pentagon be­lieves Ir­aq will likely need some help with that.

“I think that’s a really broad, cam­paign-qual­ity ques­tion. Prob­ably not by them­selves,” said Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked about the abil­ity of Ir­aqi se­cur­ity forces to re­take ter­rit­ory cap­tured by the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia.

The United States has roughly 650 troops in Ir­aq. It has also sent planes and ships in­to the re­gion since the crisis began. IS­IS, for its part, de­clared its ter­rit­ory in Ir­aq and Syr­ia to be an Is­lam­ic state, but De­mp­sey said he be­lieves their forces are cur­rently stretched thin as they try to main­tain their gains. 

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said Thursday dur­ing the joint brief­ing that U.S. troops cur­rently in Ir­aqar­en’t in­volved in com­bat mis­sions — and won’t be in­volved in com­bat mis­sions. But De­mp­sey seemed to leave the door open, say­ing that “we may get to that point” when U.S. troops have dir­ect mil­it­ary in­volve­ment in Ir­aq.

“That is one op­tion, but one I per­son­ally don’t think [is what] the situ­ation de­mands,” he ad­ded, stress­ing that the cur­rent U.S. strategy isn’t the same as in 2003 and 2006 — when the U.S. in­vaded Ir­aq and in the lead-up to the surge of U.S. troops, re­spect­ively.

In the mean­time, the United States is still try­ing to get a full pic­ture of what is go­ing on in Ir­aq. Ima­gine try­ing to solve a Ru­bik’s Cube without be­ing able to see all of the sides.

Lead­ing that ef­fort is the Pentagon, which has six as­sess­ment teams in Ir­aq. It also has two joint op­er­a­tions cen­ters there — one in Bagh­dad and a second in Er­bil, a large city in north­ern Ir­aq.

And al­though the Pentagon’s top duo are get­ting early as­sess­ments, Hagel said, we “won’t have the full com­ple­ment of all those as­sess­ments for a while.

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