Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Conducting U.S. airstrikes in Iraq would be complicated, former military officers say

By Craig Whitlock, WashPost, June 16 at 7:55 PM

The Defense Department has enough forces in the Persian Gulf to conduct airstrikes that would probably prevent Sunni insurgents from marching into Baghdad, but other missions would be far more complex and risk drawing the United States back into an Iraqi civil war, according to retired military commanders.

The Pentagon announced that the USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport dock ship, had arrived in the gulf on Monday to join an aircraft carrier, a destroyer and a guided-missile cruiser. Together, the warships carry a large number of fighter jets and search-and-rescue aircraft, along with Tomahawk cruise missiles and other ordnance, that would give President Obama an assortment of tactical options should he decide to take military action in Iraq.

“Militarily, we can do just about anything we want,” said David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who helped lead previous air campaigns over Iraq and Afghanistan. “The question is, to what end?”

The Pentagon’s ability to deploy drones to conduct surveillance and carry out airstrikes — a move endorsed by many in Congress — may be limited. The U.S. military has Predator and Reaper drones at several bases in the region but would have to get permission from reluctant host countries to use them in Iraq.

(More here.)

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