Further escalating the United States' involvement in the campaign against the Islamic State (or ISIS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced Monday the deployment of 560 additional American forces to Iraq.
The announcement was made two days after the Iraqi military reportedly seized the Qayyarrah Air Base, which lies 40 miles south of Mosul, and the troop deployment was billed as a way to support local forces in retaking that ISIS-held city.
The airfield is "one of the hubs from which ... Iraqi security forces, accompanied and advised by us as needed, will complete the southern-most envelopment of Mosul," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters before arriving in Baghdad on Monday. The U.S. troops will reportedly bolster Iraqi forces, particularly with "infrastructure and logistical capabilities," according to the Washington Post.
The Post continues:
The announcement came after Carter spent the day in Iraq meeting with U.S. military commanders and senior Iraqi officials. He said before arriving that the air base also could serve as an aviation hub. A small number of American troops arrived and carried out a "brief site survey" Sunday, said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss recent operations.
The latest deployment will elevate the official number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 4,647, but, as the Post notes, "[u]nofficially, that figure is likely closer to 6,000 when it takes in a variety of American troops who deploy on temporary assignments that the Pentagon does not include in its official tally."
The United States' war against the Islamic State continues to rely on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as a "blank check" for the protracted conflict. The deployment of thousands of American troops to Iraq and Syria has gone largely unquestioned, as Intercept journalist Murtaza Hussain noted following the latest announcement in a tongue-in-cheek post on social media:
Pro-tip: Avoid public scrutiny of future invasions by only invading countries in 500-soldier increments. https://t.co/V93gYTuLPk
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— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) July 11, 2016
The Qayyarrah base is the latest territory loss suffered by ISIS and its seizure came one week after more than 200 people were killed after a truck bomb detonated in a Baghdad shopping district.
As Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote following that ISIS-claimed mass casualty attack, "The correlation between ISIS losing territory in its so-called 'caliphate' in Syria and Iraq and the rise of terror attacks often much farther afield is one more indication of the failure of the U.S. 'War on Terror.'"
"When bombing and shooting are the methods of choice the targets are not 'terrorism,' but cities and people," Bennis wrote. "Air strikes and drone attacks—on people in a car, in the desert, in a hospital, or at a wedding party—may sometimes kill individual terrorists (and always other people), but do nothing to stop terrorism."
"Military engagement may have worked in some areas to oust ISIS forces from territory they controlled, but the cost of such campaigns is extraordinarily high for the people and nations where they occur," she continued.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has reached a similar conclusion, with CIA director John Brennan admitting last month that "our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach."
Last week, President Barack Obama also announced that more than 8,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan to presumably bolster Afghan forces against the "threat of terrorism"—in this case, the Taliban. The ongoing occupation assures that whomever succeeds Obama come November will inherit that conflict, the longest war in U.S. history, as well.