On February 13, Iraqi troops were able to retake government buildings from ISIS in the Iraqi town of Baghdadi only to turn around on February 14 and “all but [hand] the town back to the militants.”
Baghdadi is near a US base where American troops are training Iraqi forces for their ongoing fight against the Islamic State.
According to The New York Times, Iraqi Colonel Shaaban al-Obeidi cannot understand how the Baghdadi was lost. Commenting after the town slipped back into ISIS’s hands, al-Obeidi said: “I have no explanation. They have put all those families in danger.”
The larger picture here is that this raises concerns over whether Iraqi forces are up to the task of eliminating ISIS. And because there is some question on that particular point, an offensive to retake Mosul has been placed on hold. Moreover, with Baghdadi’s close proximity to a US base, there is concern that US troops may be drawn into ground combat if ISIS’s surge continues.
On September 26, Breitbart News reported that retired US General David Petraeus said ISIS could not be defeated without boots on the ground. However, he made clear at that time that Iraqi boots would be sufficient.
But BBC News reports that the fall of Baghdadi has caused “some in Washington to question again whether deploying US ground forces against [ISIS] can really be avoided–particularly when it comes to recapturing urban areas where air strikes might risk killing innocent civilians.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.