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Author: TriSec    Date: 04/26/2016 09:54:47

Good Morning.

We'll head right to Syria this morning. While the President continues to deny that we're sending "ground troops" to Syria, we are sending "advisors", about 250 soldiers to "support local forces" fighting ISIL. And so another cycle begins.

US President Barack Obama has said he plans to send 250 more troops to Syria, a sharp increase in the number of Americans working with local Syrian forces.

"I've decided to increase US support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria ... I've approved the deployment of up to 250 US personnel in Syria, including special forces," Obama said, announcing the decision after a meeting in Hanover with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The deployment, which will increase US forces in Syria to about 300, aims to accelerate the process of driving back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, White House adviser Ben Rhodes said.

In Iraq, the US plans to send 200 more soldiers and Apache helicopter gunships in preparation for an offensive to retake Mosul.

ISIL controls the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming credit for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.

"I think the administration has come to the conclusion that the Iraq army is not capable of taking Mosul," Peter Galbraith, a former American diplomat, told Al Jazeera from Paris.

"The strategy is going to be to go after Raqqa with the Syrian Kurds."

In his remarks, Obama also said that Europe needed to take on its share of the burden to ensure collective security, adding that the Western allies could do more in the fight against ISIL.

While Obama has resisted deploying US troops in Syria, he initially sent 50 US special operations personnel there last year.

The US officials described the forces as being on a "counterterrorism" mission rather than involved in an effort to tip the scales in the war, which Staffan De Mistura, the UN envoy, estimates has killed 400,000 people.

Obama pledged to wind down wars in the Middle East when he was first elected in 2008.

However, in the latter part of his presidency, he has made decisions to keep or add to the numbers of troops deployed to conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

It's just a passing sentence in the story above, but we're also going to be sending more troops back to Iraq. Again, only a few hundred, but this group is going in with Apache gunships. Despite "withdrawing" troops some years ago now, a constant contingent of about 4,000 US soldiers still remains as a target.

Almost five years after President Obama withdrew the last American troops from Iraq, the tidal waves of the war in that country are pulling him back in.

Obama has been resisting those tides, at first restricting himself to mounting airstrikes against ISIS, then sending trainers, then special operations forces initially as “advisers,” but increasingly in roles that place them on the edge of combat—and, very soon now, in the thick of it.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced this week that, for the coming battle to liberate Mosul, another 217 troops will be sent to Iraq (bringing the total to 4,087, not counting the few-hundred special operations forces); that they’ll move to the front lines with Iraqi soldiers on the battalion level (before, American troops tended to stay on bases); that they and the Iraqis will be supported in the air not only by drones and fighter jets but also by Apache helicopters—and on the ground by the new High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which can fire waves of rockets or missiles from long range with great accuracy. (One military source on the ground says that these advanced artillery rockets have been pounding ISIS targets for a couple of weeks now.)

In short, we are going to war in Iraq against ISIS. It’s not going to be like George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq: It will involve about 5,000 U.S. troops, not 150,000; and local forces—Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish peshmerga, and various militias—will be in the lead. But the United States will be directly involved in the fighting and quite possibly the dying. And although Carter and other senior officials say the U.S.’s mission isn’t changing it’s clear that, by any reasonable definition of “mission” and “changing,” it is.

What’s going on with U.S. forces in Iraq, in fact, is a living, looming case study in “mission creep.”

We'll shift gears a bit, and consider some personas-non-grata. Another promise by the President was to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. That proposal has never made much progress, and about 80 persons still remain in US custody there. While it is an active US Navy base, the prison camp itself is off in an abandoned part of the base. A general recently issued an order banning US personnel from living on the site, over health concerns from the long-polluted grounds in that area of the base. So just a passing thought - if it's unhealthy for US troops to stay there, one must wonder about our "guests". They're already in-limbo and outside international law, perhaps the thought is to issue them a de-facto death sentence now?

The general overseeing Guantanamo war court defense teams has issued an order forbidding his staff to sleep at the Camp Justice compound following a new health risk assessment on cancer-causing agents there.

Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker issued the order over the weekend in an email obtained by the Miami Herald. For unrelated reasons, the Sept. 11 judge canceled this week's pretrial hearing, meaning few if any staff are at the crude compound built a top an obsolete airstrip at the remote U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

"At this time, the potential cancer risk and non-cancer health effects associated with Camp Justice and any final conclusions (and risk management actions) cannot be determined," according to a new Navy-Marines risk assessment dated Feb. 23 that just surfaced.

Baker notified staff Monday night that they are forbidden to stay at the trailer park where U.S. military defense personnel are typically housed "until I am provided a clearer explanation of the health risks associated with living at Camp Justice, and how any remedial measures will mitigate those risks." The general, however, did not forbid staff from working on the site, where the Pentagon Office of Military Commissions has special top-secret computers and trailers to handle national documents.

U.S. military health teams have been evaluating the dangerousness of living and working at the site since a Naval Reserves officer filed a complaint with the Pentagon Inspector General's Office July 14 citing seven instances of civilians and service members who contracted a variety of cancers and had spent time at Camp Justice. One of the seven, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, had cancer of the appendix and died days after the officer filed the complaint.

A preliminary Aug. 14 study dismissed the notion of a cancer cluster, saying the incidents and types of cancers among former staff were too disparate and declared the compound "habitable for occupancy." A follow-up military and civilian consulting team then took air and soil samples at the site and searched historical records for the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, which produced the latest, inconclusive 29-page "Health Screening Risk Assessment."

The report listed a series of health concerns, including the presence of mercury in a building once used as detention center headquarters that years earlier function as a dental clinic; formaldehyde in indoor air samples; excess bromodichloromethane and chloroform in two showers; arsenic in soil samples on the site where some court personnel work and temporary visitors are housed in a tent city and adjoining trailer park; and PCBs in and around a ramshackle hangar where journalists and troops work and attorneys brief the media.

It also echoed early acknowledgments of asbestos in older buildings where legal staff work on the site, and added the asbestos containing material is "generally non-hazardous if it is undisturbed."

And with escalations happening, no matter how small, maybe it's worth finishing up today with a longtime staple - the most recent casualties from our ongoing wars. There haven't been any new ones in quite some time, but it never hurts to look back. As always, the following information comes to us courtesy of Antiwar.com.

American Deaths
Since war began (3/19/03): 4497
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4351
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3631
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 260
Since Operation New Dawn: 66

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 321
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2382
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1127
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq: 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448

15 comments (Latest Comment: 04/26/2016 19:59:48 by TriSec)
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