Mustafa Habib writes: Iraqis found out that just about a week ago at dawn, the US military had entered the “war” against the extremist group known as the Islamic State, for real. In the northern province of Ninawa, near the extremist-held city of Mosul, US ground troops – a group of 200 soldiers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to the US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter – used their artillery against the Islamic State, or IS, group’s fighters in the area.
Speaking at a press briefing last Friday, Carter told reporters that the US troops had set up base at an outpost to be named Firebase Bell – as the LA Times newspaper reported, “this would be the first American combat base since the US returned to Iraq in 2014”.
So how did Iraqis feel about the apparent return of US boots to their ground?
“The US troops have finally decided to join in properly,” says Qais al-Saadi, a colonel in the Iraqi army. “Previously they were limited to air raids. I think now they have discovered that these air raids did not affect the Islamic State as much as they hoped and they have become convinced that ground troops are also important.”
Al-Saadi was happy about this, noting that the US was paving the way for the Iraqi army, especially with their recent success in eliminating two senior members of the IS group in quick succession.
Social media lit up with debate on the subject. Some welcomed the US troops, believing they were necessary in order to defeat the IS group. Often Iraqi commentators said that this move by the US was too late and that they should have helped from the beginning. Others were not so happy, saying it was a new occupation. [Continue reading…]