Unsuccessful US airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) are causing a growing chorus of American officials to lobby for troops on the ground. But an exclusive report from Foreign Policy suggests that the Obama administration wants a reinforced Iraqi army to bear the main burden of taking the fight to ISIS. This would entail an enhanced training programme for the Iraqi military.
Citing information from "a person familiar with joint assessments by the American-led coalition and the Iraqi government," the publication explains:
The expanded retraining effort being proposed by the US may require as many as 1,000 foreign trainers from the US, UK, France, Germany and Australia to restore the beleaguered Iraqi security forces to a battle-ready state led by American advisers, said the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made. The US already has about 1,500 advisers in the country, and Western European allies have signalled their ability to send hundreds of trainers each, the person said. …
The US is hoping that many of the NATO members will readily consent to sending their troops to train Iraqi forces particularly after troubling revelations that citizens from Western Europe and Australia are both victims and participants alongside ISIS.
We re-affirm NATO’s continued commitment to the NATO-Iraq partnership, through which we will revitalise our effort to help Iraq build more effective security forces […] Should the Iraqi government request it, NATO will stand ready to consider measures in the framework of NATO’s Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative with an eye to launching such an effort in the near term.
NATO already has experience with such a mission. It had 300 trainers working with the Iraqi military and Ministry of Defence between 2008 and 2011. But that mission ended in December 2011.
In a related article Foreign Policy reported that in spite of the US State Department's claim that about 60 nations are participating in the coalition against ISIS, there are only 21 "core coalition members" and a recent meeting "produced no immediate announcements of new commitments."
Although ISIS is closing in on the Syrian-Turkish border, Turkey, has not sent troops against ISIS out of fear of "being made the fall guy for the United States not having a coherent Syrian policy," according
The UK and France have launched airstrikes, and Germany has committed to funding 'moderate rebels' to fight ISIS, but "getting their parliaments to approve sending ground troops into a warzone to train Iraqi forces is likely to be enormously complicated."
The UK is also adding Reaper drones to its air power operating in Iraq, according to a report in Defense News
. UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement to Parliament that surveillance and strike missions conducted by the Reaper will start shortly and build up as the aircraft are withdrawn from Afghanistan. The indications are that two (of Britain's 10) Reapers will be deployed initially. The US Air Force is already operating Reapers over Iraq and Syria.
“The deployment is the first operational use of UK Reaper outside of support to our operations in Afghanistan, where we are beginning to withdraw the aircraft. As Reaper numbers in Afghanistan reduce, we intend to move more of them to the Middle East,” Fallon said. Britain already has eight Tornado jets, a Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft and an inflight refuelling aircraft operating in Iraq from an RAF base in Akrotiri, Cyprus. In Afghanistan the Reapers are based at Kandahar but the remotely piloted vehicles are flown operationally by crews sitting in RAF Waddington in the UK.