On Wednesday, the White House announced the deployment of “450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.” It is easy to conceive of this latest limited addition of U.S. troops to Iraq, and nearby countries, in isolation, and as the logical and necessary next step in the expanding campaign against ISIS. However, the White House has been announcing troop deployments, with varying justifications and objectives, for over a year now. If you are one of the few people truly interested in how the United States has gradually slid into this open-ended conflict, with little public debate, and zero congressional input, it is worthwhile to review some of the notable milestones along the way.
On June 16, 2014: “275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” This package was initially described as being for force-protection and intelligence-gathering purposes. Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby pledged that the deployment “will be of a limited duration” and would be “a discrete, measured, temporary arrangement to help us to get eyes on the ground, to figure out what’s going on and get a better sense of it.” This language is worth bearing in mind, because Kirby told MSNBC earlier this week that even if the U.S.-led coalition went “all in” to defeat ISIS “it’s still going to take three to five years.”