According to the Military Times, the U.S. Marines stationed at an artillery base southeast of Mosul are firing “every day” to support Iraqi Army maneuvers.
“They fire anything from high explosives to suppress the enemy, to smoke to screen friendly movement, to illumination rounds to help patrol in the evenings. So they are fully engaged,” said Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren.
This is just a taste of things to come, as American boots do indeed hit the ground in Iraq, despite President Obama’s copious promises to the contrary.
The existing Firebase Bell was established by fewer than 200 Marines, and has at least four M777A2 howitzer artillery guns — the first “quasi-permanent presence on the ground outside the perimeter of a major Iraqi military installation” established by U.S. troops since 2014. Pentagon officials have begun to concede more such bases may be necessary, when Iraqi forces resume their stalled offensive to retake the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
The Marines at Firebase Bell, which was recently renamed the Karasoar Counterfire Complex, “have faced repeated attacks from ISIS fighters using long-range weaponry or who infiltrate into areas near the firebase,” reports the Military Times, citing the ISIS rocket attack that killed Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin on March 19. Attacks on the base, which is about 15 miles from Islamic State territory, are said to have dropped off as Iraqis pushed past it to attack ISIS-held villages.
“They’re in this kind of back-and-forth over Nasr. They’ve advanced. They’ve withdrawn. And now they’re in the process of advancing again,” Warren said of the Iraqi effort to recapture one such village, while downplaying reports of desertions and disappointing combat performance from the Iraqi units.
The Washington Times reports that the Pentagon considers the Marine deployments in Iraq “temporary” but has no end date as of yet.
“It is a temporary stay until we come up with an enduring solution or until they are not needed anymore,” said Col. Warren.
Newsday argues that, on the contrary, U.S. forces are “back in Iraq in a big way,” with a “growing presence” that was concealed from the American public until Staff Sgt. Cardin’s death.
“Indeed, despite suggestions that American ‘boots’ would not soon again be collecting Iraqi soil, the new outposts may indicate the U.S. is building up its offensive capability in anticipation of future operations,” Newsday writes, noting these deployments are slowly re-creating the exact same “stabilizing force” that President Obama “vehemently” argued against when he ordered the U.S. withdrawal.