US ground troops for Mosul assault?
Martin Dempsey, head of the US joint chiefs of staff, arrived in Baghdad on Nov. 15, days after President Barack Obama authorised sending up to 1,500 more forces to Iraq—roughly double the planned US "post-withdrawal" presence—to advise and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Before his trip, Dempsey was questioned about whether US troops will accompany Iraqi forces in an operation to take back Mosul, and said it was unlikely "but we're certainly considering it." He added: "We're going to need about 80,000 competent Iraqi security forces to recapture territory lost, and eventually the city of Mosul, to restore the border."
In June, an estimated 1,200 ISIS fighters were able to take Mosul, which was supposedly protected by 60,000 Iraqi army troops. The army is supposedly being reorganized following Iraq's change in government. Dempsey's visit came a day after Iraqi forces managed a significant victory against ISIS with the recapture the strategic oil refinery town of Baiji north of Baghdad. But the day before that saw three separate attacks that killed at least 17, including 11 security troops, in and around Baghdad. Some 40 were wounded. The largest attack was in Youssifiyah district, where a suicide car bomber hit an army checkpoint, killing six soldiers and injuring 16—including 10 civilians. Earlier in Baghdad's upscale Mansour district, a car bomb near a cluster of shops killed six civilians and wounded 13. (Rudaw, Nov. 15; Rudaw, Nov. 14; Al Jazeera, Nov. 12; NYT, Nov. 7)
Reports this week that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed or gravely injured in an air-strike at al-Qaim on the Syrian border proved to be false. In a defiant audio message after the claims, he taunted: "Soon, the Jews and Crusaders will be forced to come down to the ground and send their ground forces to their deaths and destruction." (Raw Story, Nov. 14; IraqNews.com, Daily Mail, Nov. 11)