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ISIS Strikes
Boots Above the Ground

Apache helicopters based in Baghdad have participated in strikes against ISIS. As the Telegraph reports:

American forces have begun air strikes using helicopter gunships assigned to protect the US embassy in Baghdad, as they try to beat back Isil militants within striking distance of the Iraqi capital.

The strikes, believed to involve Apache helicopters, were launched over the weekend amid heavy fighting in the western approaches to Baghdad, around both Fallujah and Hit. […]

The Apaches were sent to Iraq four months ago to defend the US embassy in the capital and their use now in air strikes has been seen as an escalation in the campaign against the militants.

From a military perspective the Apaches can provide the kind of close air support that Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops desperately need. But they are also far more vulnerable to hostile fire. Although fixed wing fighter jets like the F-16 have crashed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only a single slow-moving low-flying A-10 Warthog has ever been shot down. The Apache, on the the other hand, has been shot down by hostile fire 12 times since the start of the Iraq War, and ISIS has certainly had practice downing the helicopters of the Syrian regime.

But combat sorties from helicopters deployed to Baghdad raise questions about the President’s pledge to keep American boots off the ground in Iraq and Syria. President Obama has promised repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that: “the American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.” If Apaches are flying combat missions out of Baghdad that promise has clearly been bent, if not broken outright. There’s a slippery slope involved here as well. If eight Apache gunships based in Baghdad are not “forces…deployed to Iraq…[with] a combat mission” then why not one hundred? “No boots on the ground” seems to be a less-than-clear limiting principle for how big the fight against ISIS is going to get, or how exposed to enemy fire U.S. troops will be.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Does any sentient observer of this unfolding disaster really think that IS can be stopped without boots on the ground? The only battle-ready boots in the area are on Kurdish feet, and there aren’t enough of them to turn the tide. If the administration is actually serious about its pledge, the only viable course of action is to pull out of Iraq, support the Kurds to the hilt, and let the chips fall where they may.

    • f1b0nacc1

      This administration isn’t interested in resolving the issue, they are interested in not being blamed for it…a very different thing indeed. Airstrikes without troops to back them up are pointless exercises in political theatre, something that Obama and his ilk readily embrace.

  • B-Sabre

    I have it on good authority that the authorized footwear for all American troops in Iraq is a good pair of Birkenstock sandals. So….no boots on the ground!

  • Sibir_RUS

    Apache weak armor. In Iraq awful lot Zu-23.
    Russia supplies more armored helicopter Mi-28 in Iraq.

  • Tom Scharf

    Obama’s obsession with political optics will likely come back to haunt him here. What he seems unable to contemplate is what happens if he is forced to choose between losing this battle against ISIS or putting US ground troops in?

    It’s either humiliation and defeat, or escalation.

    Obama’s secret plan is probably to dither and run out the clock and hand this mess to the next president. I hope he enjoys all the indignation the next president has about the mess they inherited from Obama.

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