"The new injection of manpower brings the total number of U.S. personnel sent to Iraq to deal with the recent crisis to approximately 800.
The State Department, meanwhile, announced that it was temporarily moving an unspecified "small number" of embassy staff in Baghdad to U.S. consulates in the northern city of Irbil and the southern city of Basra. This is in addition to some embassy staff who were moved out of Baghdad earlier this month.
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Baghdad embassy "will be fully equipped to carry out" its mission.
The White House announced that President Barack Obama, who has previously ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq, had directed that 200 troops be sent to reinforce security at the embassy, its support facilities and Baghdad International Airport." CBS News
The carefully worded statements being made at the WH and State Department conceal the tenuous nature of the security situation in the Baghdad area. The forces of Caliph Ibrahim (ISIS et al) may not be able to overrun the massively Shia population of Baghdad but the danger of action by infiltrators or hostile Shia is real and likely to grow. Sizeable parts of western Baghdad are Sunni. As Major Garrett says in this report the danger to foreigners may become severe.
In this situation the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and presumably CENTCOM as well) have told the WH that there are three pieces of Key Terrain in the Baghdad area from the US point of view;
- The US Embassy. There has been a drawdown on civilian employees there. That continues in as low key a manner as can be managed. Reinforcements to the marine security guard are in place. The embassy cannot be defended over a long period of time in hostile conditions but the additional security would provide time to finish equipment and document destruction, get senior staff out, etc.
- Baghdad International Airport. A large scale overland evacuation of US and other civilians is no longer possible. If you doubt that look at a map that shows who holds what and can interdict what. A large scale NEO will require the use of a lot of large transport aircraft. Most of them would probably be civilian charter aircraft. That always seems to be the case. The airport is a big place. The flow of air traffic could be severely impeded or halted by indirect fire (mortars and artillery) onto the airfield runway and ramp system. The rebel forces have now captured a lot of such equipment and there are enough trained men among the rebels to use them, The artillery (M198 155 howitzers) that they have captured have ranges in excess of 20 kilometers. An airfield is a fixed target system. It is not hard to hit especially if you have a little local help in adjusting fires. There is also the anti-aircarft fire problem to include MANPADS. To keep the airport functioning and civilian aircrews willing to operate in and out of there, a continuous procress of searching the surrounding neighborhoods to the east, employing counter-battery radar to locate firing positions and agressive use of things like armed helicopters to harass and destroy the guns.
- The airport road. It is 15 kilometers from the embassy to BIA. A lot of the road runs through Sunni areas of the western part of Baghdad. Clear?
As a result of this kind of analysis the JCS proposed several options toObama among them was the realistic option for 4500 troops (a brigade plus), attached artillery, communications and air assets to perform these missions. What they were given was 350. This seems a a political decision.
Total US troop strength in Baghdad is now to be set at something like a thousand; SF advisers, embassy guard and the people who are or will be at the airport. This seems inadequate to me. pl