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Why Are Thousands of US Paratroopers Heading for Iraq?

The United States this week began transferring to Iraq and Gulf bases elite units of the US 82nd Airborne Division. debkafile’s military sources report that the first batch of 500 officers and men will be deployed in Baghdad and the Kurdish republic’s capital of Irbil, followed by another 500 in July and 250 in December. Altogether, by the end of 2015, the US will have posted another 1,250 officers and men to augment the American force already present at a base ner Habbaniya in the western Iraqi Anbar province. This force, roughly the same size as the incoming contingents, came from the US 3rd Division’s Combat Team which set up the base six months ago to train Iraqi troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIS.

By the end of the year, therefore, the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq will rise to several thousand. Our military sources define their mission as being to intensify raids on ISIS commanders, command centers and bases and striking columns on the move. Their operations will draw on the successful attack mounted by DELTA commandos on May 16 in the heart of the Islamist stronghold in eastern Syria. The group’s chief of finances was killed in that raid and, according to American sources, the troops carried off a rich intelligence trove of digital and telephone data on the Islamist State’s tactics and structure.

The 82nd division has abundant experience of combat in the Iraqi arena. Between the 2003 US invasion and up until 2009, its members fought in critical engagements, especially in Anbar province, which ISIS has made the its main depot for large military concentrations and a launching pad for attacks across Iraq.

The figure of 3,000 American soldiers in Iraq understates the case by far. A much larger pool of combat forces is available close at hand for inserting into the cycle of war on ISIS.

Posted in Jordan just across the border from Anbar is a sizeable number of US special operations forces, and air units of F-16 fighter bombes and UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters. Their numbers have never been released.

Another several thousand troops are stationed in Kuwait. The Pentagon therefore has a reserve force present and available for a directive to go into action, once a decision for the US military to step into combat against the Islamists in Iraq and Syria is confirmed by President Barack Obama.

All these units are geared to fighting in the two arenas in the framework of the 82nd Airborne Division.

This week, too, the Pentagon started pumping new weapons to the Iraqi army under the US commitment of $1.6 billion from the Iraq Train and Equip Fund – ITEF – to equip its units with appropriate arms for combating ISIS.


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