In response to the growing threat to Iraq’s capital, President Obama approved sending 350 additional troops to protect the United States embassy in Baghdad this week. The additional troops were announced after the Islamic State terrorist group published a video of the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
The Associated Press reports that Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, announced that the troops would be deployed to protect the embassy in a non-combat role, and would include soldiers from the Army and the Marines. They will include, the AP adds, “a headquarters element, medical personnel, associated helicopters and an air liaison team.” About 820 soldiers are believed to be serving in securing the Baghdad embassy.
The increase in troop numbers on the ground in Iraq follows a growing call from Congress for more significant legislative involvement in the fight against the Islamic State. The Daily Beast reports that a bipartisan group of legislators involved in foreign policy appear increasingly concerned that the executive branch’s efforts against the terrorist group are insufficient to defeat the Islamic State decisively. “Congress needs to play a vital role and we are determined that the House Foreign Affairs Committee will lead the way,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Islamic State terrorist group has yet to reach Baghdad, though they have invested efforts in securing roads that lead to the capital in an attempt to isolate it from the rest of the country. They remain deeply embedded within the captured city of Mosul, however, as the United States uses airstrikes to keep them from expanding their influence too far out of the city. On Monday, the United States launched airstrikes near the captured Mosul Dam, reportedly destroying 16 of the Islamic State’s armored vehicles.
On Tuesday, the Islamic State released a second video featuring the beheading of an American citizen, journalist Steven Sotloff. The video, titled “A Second Message to America,” featured many of the same production qualities as its first installment, in which an Islamic State terrorist known as “John” beheads American journalist James Wright Foley. The video follows a chorus of condemnation for the terrorist group from nations and international organizations, including Amnesty International, which is accusing the Islamic State of atrocious war crimes and acts of ethnic cleansing.
In addition to the myriad known massacres of ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, the NGO Human Rights Watch accused the Islamic State today of killing as many as 770 Iraqi soldiers after overrunning a military base north of Baghdad. “These are horrific and massive abuses, atrocities by the Islamic State, and on a scale that clearly rises to the crimes against humanity,” said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser to Human Rights Watch.