General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news briefing on Wednesday that the decision to put more boots on the ground in Iraq should come within the next few weeks.
“Those recommendations are being made and the president will have an opportunity to make some decisions here in the coming weeks,” Dunford said about plans to send in more American troops to help recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State.
“I brought it to the Secretary. The Secretary will engage with the President,” Dunford said, referring to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
The number of troops deployed in Iraq is already much higher than the American people were led to expect, as the public learned after ISIS fired on a Marine artillery position near Mosul two weeks ago, killing Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin and injuring eight others.
As the New Yorker trenchantly puts it, “ISIS knew about the new Marine station at Fire Base Bell before the American public did,” and the Marines were once again “assigned a mission that the Iraqi Army is unable to do.”
CNN caught the Pentagon quietly renaming the position where Cardin was killed from “Fire Base Bell” to “Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex,” because there are not supposed to be American fire bases preparing for heavy combat against ISIS.
Reuters reports that General Dunford anticipates “an increase in the level of U.S. forces in Iraq from the current 3,800,” but he said those decisions have not been “finalized.” The New Yorker proposes that the number of American troops in Iraq is actually much higher, because the official Pentagon head count does not include “significant numbers of personnel on temporary duty.”
“The timing really now is focused on the next phase of the campaign, which is towards Mosul, and maintaining the kind of momentum that we had in Ramadi,” the JCS chairman explained.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claimed President Obama would give “careful consideration” to Carter and Dunford’s requests for more troops in Iraq, because the president is “focused on results.”
“The point is, the president’s direction to his team has been, when we sense there are some tactics… that are showing some progress, come back to me with suggestions about how we can reinforce that element of our strategy,” said Earnest, as quoted by CNS News.
“I don’t know exactly what Secretary Carter and General Dunford have in mind when they made that specific comment, but surely the president is eager to hear suggestions from his military leaders about the way that we could reinforce those elements of our strategy that have shown progress. And if that means a commitment of greater resources, including additional personnel to that effort, then the president will give it careful consideration,” Earnest added.