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American soldiers still fighting in Iraq

By JIM LONEY
September 24, 2010

American soldier in Iraq: The war continues (Reuters)

Since President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, U.S. troops have waged a gun battle with a suicide squad in Baghdad, dropped bombs on armed militants in Baquba and assisted Iraqi soldiers in a raid in Falluja.

Obama’s announcement on August 31 has not meant the end of fighting for some of the 50,000 U.S. military personnel remaining in Iraq 7-1/2 years after the invasion that removed Saddam Hussein.

“Our rules of engagement have not changed. Iraq does remain from time to time a dangerous place, so when our soldiers are attacked they will return fire,” said Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan, a U.S. military spokesman.

The American role in Iraq’s battle to quell a tenacious Islamist insurgency has been waning since security in cities and towns was handed over to Iraqi police and soldiers in June 2009.

Officially, U.S. forces remain in Iraq to “advise, train and assist.”

When they answered a call for help two weeks ago from Iraqi soldiers overwhelmed in a gunfight with militants hiding in a palm grove near Baquba in Diyala province, U.S. troops brought in attack helicopters and F-16 jet fighters.

The F-16s dropped two bombs to help end the skirmish. They were the first bombs used in Iraq by the United States since July 2009, Buchanan said.

15 ATTACKS PER DAY

Overall violence has dropped sharply since the peak of the sectarian slaughter in which tens of thousands of people were killed in 2006-2007. The U.S. military says there are about 15 attacks in Iraq each day on average.

American soldiers are no longer supposed to be on the front line of the fight against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, Shi’ite militias and other groups still active in Iraq.

They routinely ride along with Iraqi special forces in counter-terrorism operations but no longer play a direct role, for example, in a raid on an al Qaeda hideout.

Colonel Mark Mitchell, commander of a U.S. special operations training force, said Americans are routinely outnumbered by Iraqis two-to-one on such missions but the ratio can be as high as eight-to-one.

Iraqis plan and lead the operation and conduct the assault, while Americans hold back, watching, coaching and supervising, entering the hideout only when the Iraqis have secured it.

“We call it the Darth Vader model … the imperial storm troopers, they’ll go in, secure the target. Once it’s all secure then Darth Vader can go in and walk through,” Mitchell said.

“The bottom line is, we’re not in the house.”

U.S. officials say a senior American officer will be at the side of the Iraqi commander, coaching. U.S. troops will ensure the Iraqis are securing the scene perimeter, controlling crowds and properly gathering forensic evidence.

As in the Baquba shootout, they will call up air support, bringing in weaponry the Iraqis lack. They will arrange medical evacuations.

They can support the Iraqis with technology by providing live video links from aerial drones, allowing ground commanders to see where their troops and their adversaries are positioned.

LOCAL OFFICIALS CRITICAL

On Sept 15, U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces raided a house in Falluja in darkness in pursuit of suspected al Qaeda militants, Buchanan said.

The assault force came under fire from several locations and shot back, according to Buchanan, who said four al Qaeda militants were killed with two other men who emerged from a house with weapons and appeared to be a threat.

Local officials criticized the raid and said seven people were killed including two women and three children.

In the September 5 attack by suicide bombers and gunmen on an Iraqi base in Baghdad, U.S. troops got involved in the gunfight.

The U.S. military routinely has personnel at the base and about 100 advisers were on hand that day. A U.S. drone fed real-time pictures of the attack to commanders.

Buchanan said the Americans helped repel the attackers, who killed 12 people and wounded three dozen more.

“Our soldiers were there and they returned fire,” he said.

With the slow-motion U.S. disengagement from Iraq scheduled for completion at the end of next year, U.S. commanders concede there is a sense of urgency in their training of Iraqi forces.

At the same time, they say they are confident the Iraqis can handle what the remaining insurgents can throw at them, with Americans in the background.

“This is their country,” Mitchell said. “They are capable, they are willing and they are able to take the lead.”

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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12 Responses to American soldiers still fighting in Iraq

  1. freecitizen

    September 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Either combat is actually ended or it is not! It is clear, it is not! Does the word LIAR come to mind?

  2. Guardhouse lawyer

    September 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    There is a significant difference between actively engaging the enemy and protecting yourself.

    • freecitizen

      September 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      Yeah, I guess if you walk around(patrol)in full combat gear in a country that is hostile to you, then you can expect to protect yourself!?!

      • logtroll

        September 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm

        The word ASSHOLE comes to mind. I will pray tonight that each and every numbskull that ever throws an ill considered insult gets a chance to play the role disparaged, thus proving that they are INDEED as superior as they purport.

        Or just another ASSHOLE passing gas.

        • Carl Nemo

          September 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

          You best kick drinking gin good buddy. It brings out your mean-butt spirit in spades. I’ve really worked hard at trying to cut you some slack, then you post the above. You criticize people for throwing insults then come on the horn and do so yourself in spades.

          I’ve enjoyed “freecitizen’s” comments to the site and seemingly a new participant too.

          At least you admitted to working on your second drink. I can kill an entire bottle of Evan Williams and still crank out clear material. Methinks you be a pansy when it comes to slappin’ ‘em back and possibly a mean drunk to boot. I’ll bet you wear wife beater t-shirts too. / : |

          Welcome aboard freecitizen. : )

          Carl Nemo **==

          • logtroll

            September 25, 2010 at 4:21 am

            Dearest Carl,

            Must you always blanche at my satire? Woe to have a point ill taken that soughteth only to make fun of capitalizing aspersions as meaningful point making, when it be simple shouting.

            Interesting to note that you are a bigger alcoholic than myself, Is this another competition where the players each make their own rules? Please, please, let me play! When do I win?

            We’ll come aboard, Cap’n.

      • Guardhouse lawyer

        September 25, 2010 at 7:30 am

        So cops who walk around armed on our streets can expect to “have to protect” themselves?

        • logtroll

          September 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

          I think freecit is confounding GWB’s motive for declaring combat to be over in Iraq (We Won!!), with BO’s motive for declaring that the combat mission in Afghanistan is changed to a support mission (the mission focus has changed from aggressive to defensive).

          How does this make Obama a LIAR? Because freecit chose to limit the context of discussion to whether soldiers are killed or not? Obama did fill out the context of his statement, which most certainly did not proclaim victory.

          Clearly, GWB was a LIAR in that his sole purpose was to mislead the American public and play the hero. As with many of his administration’s malevolent sorties, it was an inevitable disaster. Also interesting is that GWB didn’t declare anything about Afghanistan, he just turned his back on the whole mess to go start another unnecessary war.

          Obama’s strategy and timing may not be right, or maybe it is, but at least there is a strategy that is more thoughtful than that of a drunken cowboy shooting up the place.

        • Carl Nemo

          September 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm

          Yep GHL and they do protect themselves with light body armor while looking upon the citizens who pay their wages as “the enemy”. I know cops on an off duty basis and that’s their current mindset when on patrol. America has long since passed the “gaslight era” with a constable on patrol carrying only a nightstick.

          Carl Nemo **==

  3. Bogofree

    September 25, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Obama has pumped up our presence in Afghanistan. Call it what they want it was a surge in troop strength desired to have the same impact that happened – supposedly – in Iraq. We should be out. Period.

    In Iraq combat operations continue and I have no idea to what extent it happens? I have a son with the 144th – a transportation unit – and when they are fired upon during a mission their support fires back. Understandable. But when that pattern continues the military targets possible locations from where attacks are being formulated. I assume these are joint combat operations.

    • Guardhouse lawyer

      September 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      Obama campaigned on a pledge to increase operations in Afghanistan and to curtail operations in Iraq. He has done EXACTLY that. The American public, by voting for Obama, has, in my mind, endorsed the policy Obama set forth while campaigning.

      You may assume all you want to about joint combat operations, but that is simply your assumption, one which may not be borne out by the facts.

  4. Bogofree

    September 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Obama has continued our involvement in a failed operations in Afghanistan. Even a casual search will show dwindling support for that and that support will continue to evaporate. Folks actually manage to change their position as facts change and those facts are located in body bags and that we are just custodians locked in enclaves. Obama and Bush are compliant in this foolishness.

    I will take my assumptions as correct unless proven wrong. Maybe you can find some information on that? I checked Wiki and saw nothing.