Obama okays 450 more troops for Iraq training mission

obamaUS President Barack Obama on Wednesday approved the deployment of up to 450 more US military personnel to Iraq, in a bid to reverse gains by the Islamic State group.

The White House said the forces will take part in an already 3,000-strong US mission to “train, advise, and assist” Iraqi army and Sunni tribal fighters.

Recent Islamic State victories in Ramadi in Iraq and Syria’s Palmyra seem to have rubbished Obama’s strategy of depending on US airpower and an amalgam of disparate ground forces to “defeat and degrade” the Islamic State.

Amid the criticism, the White House also announced the “expedited delivery of essential equipment and materiel” for tribal and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.

Until now, Baghdad funneled weapons and oversees the training of Sunni tribal fighters, seen as likely to be key to victory in Ramadi and the surrounding Anbar province.

The Obama administration is now looking at having American troops more directly involved in training those Sunni volunteers.

Iraq’s Sunni Muslim community has yet to join the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in large numbers.

Among Sunnis there is simmering distrust of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, which IS fighters have sought to exploit.

The larger US deployment is expected to mean increasing the number of training sites from the four currently being used.

Taken together the measures would significantly scale up US activities in Iraq, but stop short of a strategy overhaul.

Obama’s Republican political adversaries seized on that aspect of the announcement.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but as the president admitted the other day, he has no strategy to win. And this is another tactical move,” said House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

“I support the tactical move the president is taking, but where’s the overarching strategy?”

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