Originally posted on TIME:
President Obama ordered U.S. military reinforcements to Iraq last week. The additional 475 troops will push the total helping the Iraqis battle jihadist militants to about 1,600. That’s 1% of the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in 2008, at the peak of the U.S. deployment for the 2003-2011 war.
So it’s a relatively tiny force. But just what are these troops doing? More importantly, what are they not doing?
The Pentagon insists that they’re not going to engage in ground combat against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They’ve spent much of the last three months—the first 300 advisers began arriving in Iraq in late June—assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga forces in the semi-autonomous north of the country. ISIS militants steamrolled over Iraqi forces earlier this year, culminating in their seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
The U.S. advisers also…
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