President Obama's decision to agree to Iraqi and Peshmerga forces attacking Mosul to degrade and destroy Islamic State just three weeks before the US elections sounds alarm bells for the prospects of Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump on 8 November.
Secretary of Defence Ash Carter confirmed Obama's decision on 17 October.
The timing of the attack is very concerning.
Obama's decision accords with his policy enunciated as far back as 10 September 2014:
But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.
Obama had then further elaborated:
…we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground…
… As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.
The same day as Carter issued his statement - General Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve - reportedly acknowledged the presence of "forward air controllers" amongst the US "advisory" contributions to the battle.
Those American "advisory" contributions now appear to have included an explosive ordnance disposal technician – Jason Finan - working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul who was killed by an Islamic State bomb on October 20.
Both Carter and Townsend were meeting together in Irbil on 23 October when Townsend stated:
Our investigation is still underway, but as I understand the event right now, they had moved to a position on the battlefield behind the Iraqi front lines with a headquarters element….
…These guys said you know what, we probably need to move back a terrain and gain a little bit more stand-off. And they were in the process of that when they struck an IED.
Such direct involvement of American troops on the ground – leading to the death of an American soldier - seems a distinct departure from Obama's 2014 policy.
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