US Marines have entered the battle in Iraq to help the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga defend the oil fields from ISIS.
The marines are on the front line and have reportedly been tasked with protecting Iraqi units in Makhmur, a scenario President Barack Obama wanted to avoid as long as possible during his time in office.
Even as Pentagon officials have sought to emphasize their claims of ISIS being “on the run,” ever more US ground troops are being deployed into Iraq to try to cope with ISIS offensives, with the battle of Makhmur leading to the introduction of US Marines in front-line combat roles.
Officials are trying to downplay the operation as “force protection” for Iraqi ground troops, who have been massing in the area in an effort to ultimately launch an attack on the ISIS-held city of Mosul, not far away.
The explanation is unsatisfying for several reasons, but primarily because this “tactical assembly area” already includes thousands of Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga, and these are the same troops who are supposed to attack Mosul. Yet these troops are apparently unable to even hold Makhmur, let alone advance toward Mosul.
The Makhmur District is also a key to holding oil fields around Kirkuk, and the ISIS offensive is seen by many analysts as part of an effort to ultimately regain control over those lucrative oil fields, and have been “outgunning” the thousands of Iraqi troops in the area.
Whether they’re trying to save Iraqi ground troops who still can’t stand up to ISIS, or save oil fields, however, the latest escalation puts US troops even further in harm’s way, and has put the war even further afield from the “no boots on the ground” affair initially promised by the Obama Administration.
Shiite militia forces in Iraq have strongly opposed the new deployment of US troops to the country.
The Iranian backed militias have warned that if Washington dis not withdraw its forces “immediately,” they would deal with them “as forces of occupation.”