Mission creep in Iraq continues as US launches airstrikes in Amerli

The US military and humanitarian mission in Iraq continues to suffer from what is known as “mission creep,” which is defined as “a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment.”

When the Obama administration ordered limited military intervention against the Islamic State beginning on Aug. 7, the objectives were twofold: to halt the Islamic State’s advance on Irbil to protect US personnel based there, and provide humanitarian relief to the Yazidi minority who fled Sinjar and other towns and were trapped on Mount Sinjar.

Within a week, the objectives were modified, and the US military was now tasked with serving as the air force to Kurdish and Iraqi forces “to protect critical infrastructure” and “support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces, who are working together to combat ISIL [the Islamic State].

Yesterday, the US began launching airstrikes against Islamic State fighters who are besieging the ethnic Turkmen town of Amerli. Note that Amerli is in Salahaddin province and doesn’t constitute a critical threat to US personnel in Irbil, nor does it host critical infrastructure. Below is the full press release that was issued yesterday by US Central Command:

At the request of the Government of Iraq, the U.S. military conducted airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to address the humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli, Iraq at approximately 8:30 p.m. EDT today.

Two months ago, hundreds of ISIL terrorists advanced on Amirli cutting off food, water, and medical supplies to thousands of Shia Turkomen living there. ISIL has since blocked many attempts by Iraqi Security Forces and the United Nations from delivering critical supplies to Amirli, threatening the remaining population.

At the request of the Iraqi government, U.S. forces airdropped 109 bundles of much-needed humanitarian aid to the people of Amirli, including the Shia Turkomen minority ethnic group. Two U.S. C-17s and two U.S. C-130s airdropped supplies, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat. In addition, aircraft from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom also dropped humanitarian aid.

To support the delivery of this humanitarian assistance, the U.S. military also conducted three airstrikes in coordination with the isolated Iraqi security forces responsible for protecting Amirli.

Fighter aircraft struck and destroyed three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL armed vehicle, one ISIL checkpoint and one ISIL tank near Amirli. All aircraft safely exited the area.

The President authorized these airstrikes in support of an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli. These operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.

U.S Central Command has conducted a total of 118 airstrikes across Iraq.

It has been clear from the beginning that the Obama administration does not have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State. President Obama admitted as much in a press conference last week.

But what is clear is that the Obama administration is doing exactly what it said it wouldn’t do: get sucked into Iraq’s civil war and serve as Iraq’s air force.

If President Obama wants to defeat the Islamic State, a group that he described as a “cancer,” he needs to quickly develop a comprehensive strategy and articulate it to the American public. Otherwise, the administration is employing tactical solutions to the strategic problem that is the Islamic State, and adjusting these tactics on the fly.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • deth frum abuv says:

    the U.S. Air Force filling the void of much needed air support seems on the outset a good idea. It seems as though most of the missions are of a humanitarian nature. Acting as a stopgap preventing mass genocide. These “Victories” may be just the thing the Iraqis need to rally behind.
    The people who are being brutalized are facing death in all corners. Perhaps initiating a program to evacuate as many people as possible could help in coalitions forces ie pkk and others to begin pushing back on ISIL positions. As the civilian populations in many areas having removed themselves or been removed.
    With nowhere for the ISIL to disappear to they would make for more convenient targets. Of course No-one really wants to do anything about it (ISIL), because they figure America will dolt.
    The Sunni people understanding that a change in government has taken place and there being Sunni representatives, It would stand to reason they may wish to reconsider their allegiance to ISIL in the face of a brutal caliphate. In support of a more shall we say civil representation.
    I feel fairly certain there are more than a few Sunnis whom are sick and tired of ISIL and would be happy to see them gone for good. It is also my opinion that it may be time for some of our leaders to reconsider their view Twords Assad. Though he may be aGiant Turd, he has an army, and a mutual interest in seeing ISIL put down like a rabid dog. Even though i believe he started the ISIL reconstitution, He has lost the leash to the monster he created. He wants them gone too.
    At the end of the day the Iraqis must once again decide what side they are on. The reality of revolution or armed rebellion to change government through force will always come with radicals attempting to hijack the movement for their own sadistic purposes. As the snake consumes its own tail, so will ISIL face the self consuming fire of Hate and Murder. and when they seek refuge from their masters who will inevitably destroy their servants as they always do. None of them will have anywhere to go and the chaos which they had hoped to sow will be their own. They will fall of their own weight.
    Just my two cents.

  • Tom says:

    Since IS is now massing against Deir Ezzor and has begun shelling the SAA Pocket there, its clear IS is getting ready for a new winter offensive into Iraq. It is shifting large amounts of resources and manpower to Deir Ezzor and Hasakah where they just wrecked a YPG attempt to retake Jaza’ah as seen here:
    Many of the Kurds here showed up in a YPG vid on youtube that claimed they were retaking Jaza’ah. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mQzcuAKdzQ
    As you can see IS has no problems fighting and killing women who fight them and killed this woman who starred in the Youtube vid. Everyone of those YPG fighters who starred in the vid are dead.
    Video shot within Tabqa Airbase.
    IS momentum has not been stopped, its growing, Iraq is a sideshow to IS, designed to grab arsenals as fast as possible to secure their Syrian heartland before delivering the killing blow to Iraq next year. SAA gets defeated and destroyed in Deir Ezzor and IS will be able to freely move into Iraq and likely capture the 2K12 Kub SAMs at Deir Ezzor. If we aren’t going after IS in Syria, then we are wasting time, as IS will always have a Syrian base to invade Iraq at will and rip the country apart regardless of what the US does,making it another failed war.

  • Evan says:

    So what should we do? We’ve heard about all of the mistakes that we’re making as well as all the mistakes we’ve made, repeatedly. So, my question to you, and everyone else is, what do we do?
    What options do we have?
    Options that, don’t help Assad.
    Don’t help the Iranians or Russians.
    Options that preserve the integrity of Iraq, and it’s people.
    That keeps my country from serving as their air force.
    That unifies the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters on the ground.
    ….These are some awfully tall orders, and the list just goes on and on. I don’t really believe that it’s realistic to say that we’re going to be able to accomplish all of these things, we’re going to have to pick and choose, cause you can’t please everyone all the time.
    We do know some things though…
    Any talk of alliance with the mass murderer Bashar Assad is absolute NONSENSE. It will NEVER happen.
    All of you advocating this plan should just face up to that fact, even if it were the smartest, best option, we would not work with him, ever, under any circumstance.
    It’s going to take boots on the ground to destroy IS.
    Assembling a multinational force from the region that shares our assessments of IS, and is able to do something about it seems like the smartest way forward. The Jordanians, the Saudis, Egyptians, Iraqis, Turks, and more.
    We don’t need to link up with the Qods force, or the SA militia.
    We have friends in the region that are being threatened just as we are, and if we will show some real leadership, real backbone, and real loyalty towards them, we WILL win.

  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    Mission “creep”
    Yes, indeed.

  • Michael says:

    Obama first appeased Jiahdists against Assad, now he will appease Assad/Iran against Jihadists, he wants to involve Turkey, Saudis and Qatarh, the same states have a major responsibility for this mess. Since starte of US-op, about thousand people were executed by IS outside regular warfare. US obviously cant stop to repeat its deadly failures, now they will fight IS just as much that they wont be able to take over Iraq right know, but not enough to stop their expansion in Syria and consolidation of power. US still refuse to support the logical option, the only effective power against IS, the Syrian Kurds. Shia militias according to amnesty and other serious NGO’s already executed at least 200 sunnites. there was a glimmer of hope for this region which is obviously heading into massive war and massmurder, but I fear, this momentum is vanishing right know, there is absolute no valid indication for an end of this escalation. Syrian Kurds should be supplied with weapons after serious negotations with PYD/YPG. If Islamist rebels were supported there is no logical reason to boycott YPG, aside of appeasing Turkey. If there wont be a change in US-policy despite media attention and calls of experts to strike IS in Syria, we will definitely enter the road to desaster.

  • James says:

    Just like in Iraq the first major ‘clog’ to the strategy was Maliki, so too in Syria the major ‘clog’ to any effective strategy is Assad.
    As long as Assad remains in power in Syria there will never be any kind of an effective regional coalition (certainly no Sunni Awakening, at least in Syria). Why can’t you all see that? By now, it should be as plain as day. Maliki and Assad are like 2 peas in a pod.
    The only reason why we are making at least limited gains in Iraq (and many of the disparate groups are now fighting ISIS side by side) is because Maliki has agreed to step down.
    This whole thing in Syria started with the best of intentions as a revolution before it regressed into a civil war. The only thing I can think of that would compare similarly in world history would be the French Revolution but only much worse.
    Why didn’t Assad just step down like the leaders did in Tunisia and Yemen, etc.?
    I predicted long ago over and over again on these message boards that Assad is the kind of a thug that will do anything to stay in power; even if it means bringing mass misery to both his people and his military.
    It should be so plain and simple, Assad must go! And that is just the minimum, before we can ever develop any kind of an effective strategy in ridding our world of this cancer known as ISIS.

  • James says:

    How low will you go, oh ‘House of Sod’?
    Haven’t you brought enough misery and anguish to your people and military?
    Now, you want to try to ‘share’ that misery with US?
    The Bible says, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake,” oh House of Sod.

  • Paul says:

    Increase the targeting inside Iraq only & Stop Islamic terrorist coming into Syria via Turkey.
    Many reports say Qatar is the current main $backer.

  • Tom says:

    What options do we have:
    1. Pick Assad/Iran/Hezbollah’s side admit they are far better than IS, kick Israel and KSA to the curb as useless which they are and fueling the extremism. Both are theocracies and not worth supporting anyway. Then declare war on IS and fight it to absolute victory and write it into the declaration of war. Post war, leave Iran in charge of the region and an equal partner, it refuses to be a vassal like Europe, against Russian encroachment.
    2. Let this mess sort itself out and accept oil shock as the price and get serious about fixing our infrastructure and abide the words of Washington to not get involved in foreign affairs outside of trade negotiations.
    There are no other options because:
    Turkey sees the PKK/YPG as worse than IS and wants them to kill each other and save them the trouble. Also Erdogan is not going to let the Army get popular again after spending years purging it of Kemalists so it stops couping the Government and killing people for their beliefs. Plus Kemalism f#$$ the Turkish Economy and caused the PKK rebellion.
    The Kurds spend just as much time fighting each other as their enemies. YPG fought a mini-civil war amongst themselves in 2013 over leadership posts. KDP Peshmerga are useless and ran without fighting from Sinjar. YPG and PKK are undisciplined idiots who can’t even get a functioning war economy together in Rojava to support its fighters unlike IS and failed to link their cantons together and are losing heavily on the battlefield against IS. PJAK is essentially destroyed and Iran wound up releasing PJAK fighters from jail to reinforce PUK. PUK has its game on, but took heavy losses since the IS June Offensive.
    KSA, its army would defect en mass to IS.
    Yemen, losing to AQAP and the Houthis.
    Jordan, its army has its hands full keeping order because the king is too corrupt and incompetent having presided over a disastrous economy that can’t provide jobs to Jordanians and burdened by a million refugees.
    Israel, can’t stomach the losses it suffered turkey shooting Gaza Civilians and lost twice to Hezbollah.
    Lebanon is our only other bet and it will be because Hezbollah drags them kicking and screaming.

  • Bill, I must take objection to your statement that Mr. Obama “needs to quickly develop a comprehensive strategy.”
    This is like saying that Mr. Obama should quickly develop a vaccine to the Ebola virus.
    Figuring out radical Islam was, and is the job of social scientists. But it is still a job in progress: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/.U_4RsvldWSq#.VAVrYvldWSo.
    Consequently, there is no way on earth Mr. Obama can develop a comprehensive strategy any time soon.
    But some informed outsiders who are not social scientists by trade, probably do understand it: http://www.albanygovernmentlawreview.org/archives/pages/article-information.aspx?volume=7&issue=2&page=347

  • Paul T says:

    The ME is much better off with Assad in power.
    Don’t kid yourself.

  • blert says:

    Folks there are so many fault lines across this conflict zone that the President can’t figure out which way to turn.
    Iran and KSA are classic theocracies: the former a pure theocracy, the latter a fusion of monarchy and theocracy. (The imams have their own police force — it’s huge — and their own economic base. This makes KSA quite unlike any European or Asian monarchy. The closest parallel would be Imperial/ Shintoist Japan. There are endless parallels between Shintoism and Islamism… amazing, really.)
    Israel is absolutely NOT a theocracy. It’s a liberal democracy. Voting actually matters in Israel. National policy is NOT run according to the Talmud, and rabbis are not ensconced atop secular structures far and wide. (cf Iran, KSA)
    Israel is also outside the scope of discussion WRT ISIS, though AQ- al Nusrah would LOVE to drag Judaism into the mash-up.
    The conflict is centered on (Arab) Sunnis vs Shia — with all other minorities being crushed as these ‘elephants’ fight it out. The Kurds are also Sunnis. (mostly) So the battle line turns entirely on ethnicity. Arabs of either faction can’t abide Kurds.
    The ultimate driver for all of this is the exponential explosion of Arab populations. Those second, third and fourth sons have to go somewhere.
    The same dynamic occurred in Europe — in the 19th Century. The result was WWI.
    A politically negotiated peace, so appealing in the West, is a complete non-starter. These are blood feuds which tail off into the mists of time.
    The centralization of oil wealth indicates that the minorities will be wiped out.
    All of them are farming centered cultures. ISIS is running right over their lands much like the Mongols of Asia — one thousand years ago.
    YPG has lost, and continues to lose, salami style, farm after farm. ISIS doesn’t need them, it survives on imported (Western) foods.
    Oil wealth, and limited opportunities, has caused most young Arabs to grow up without knowing how to farm. Saddam really helped out: he cut down almost all of the date orchards to create destitution and dependency on his central state. A date palm takes decades to reach commercial production levels.
    I don’t think any policy blend can stop the Arabs from re-enacting WWI — this time in the desert. The twist, this time, is that Arabs can’t produce the very weapons that they need to fight. Without Putin’s exports, the entire area would collapse into an antagonistic peace.

  • Alex says:

    Just FYI, Tom is an Iran/Hezbollah shill he posts the exact same line on numerous other forums. Always praising Hezbollah/Iran and declaring that ISIS is unbeatable unless we get rid of Iran’s two biggest enemies in the region (Israeli and Saudi Arabia) and join them in an alliance.
    Don’t know whether he gets paid for it or is a true believer, but take his posts with a grain of salt and understand there is most certainly an agenda behind them. One that compels him to spread the same talking points across many different forums.

  • Eric says:

    Thanks. Alex. I thought Tom might be a bit fond of Iranian interests.
    Mission Creep. So far, all our targets have, on Texan terms, ‘needed killing’. It has not been a waste of JP10. Obama got the US committed to some combat operations in Iraq. He did it, near as I can figure, with as little blow back and as many positive headlines as we could have hoped for. That set a good tone for Kerry to make the rounds and try to pull a coalition together to to take the fight to ISIS.
    I like the way blert put it, there really is no ‘nation’ basis for a peace, for a solid in-country alliance of this and that tribe to go fight ISIS as one force. Iraq is in the shape it is because Iranian influence steered Maliki onto the rocks. That truth will not shake the Iraqi Shias free from Iran. I don’t see the Iraqi government’s new team doing things yet, so I don’t know where things are headed with them.
    I will suspend my criticism of Mission Creep for a time, until we see what the Coalition comes up with. In its place I will complain that it will take too long for that plan to become action, and ISIS will use the time to do as much mischief as they can, including overseas attacks. I am a proponent of going in with a good plan, and learning on the job to make it a great plan. Yes, I do mean letting the tactics decide the strategy. Because a smaller ISIS that needs to duck surveillance will not execute a big strategy. They will defer that to later, and if we figure the ground game out, there won’t be much of a ‘later’ for them…. Just my two bits worth

  • Evan says:

    I see, how could I not have seen before now?
    We need to prop up Bashar Assad, and his pathetic army, give them guns and ammo and whatever else they want.
    We should cut Isreal loose, cause they’re “useless.”
    Oh, and we should just roll over for the Iranians, and let them rule over the region.
    Needless to say, this is the last time I’ll be responding to any of your posts, you’re obviously an Iranian/Hezbollah shill.
    Also, you didn’t read my actual post, so nothing you’ve written in reply is in anyway relevant or realistic.
    Are you American Tom? Do you live in the US?
    I know we have some crazies over here, but man I think you might take the cake, aside from Abu Adam of course….
    The world is in big big trouble, and pragmatism is a good thing, and I think we should be pragmatic, but like I’ve said before, we will NEVER ally ourselves with ANY of these crazies, whether it’s Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, whoever.
    While something along those lines may be palatable to you tom, it is in NO WAY realistic or palatable to the rest of the country.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Most people (thankfully) seem to agree that Assad should leave and that entering into a partnership with him is a bad move. He knows how to play geopolitical chess in the region (he learned that from his father), and he tends to do whatever he can to support his regime and it’s allies even if it means going against their core ideological beliefs.
    I will not be blinded by anti-Sunni reactionary emotional fervor. Just because some of those who oppose Assad do bad things, that doesn’t mean we should give him and his allies a free pass because they seem more ‘open’ and ‘modern’. Assad and his enemies are two sides of the same coin.
    I should also remind people that among one of the root causes of the rise of jihadism all over the world was the western world’s support of dictators.


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