US Marines Now Defending Oil Fields From ISIS


From IB Times:

The Islamic State group is trying to retake control of the oil fields it lost two years ago in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan by launching rockets at Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers. In an attempt to earn back the massive amount of cash it used to fund its international terrorism in 2014, the group has focused its resources on attacking Makhmur, a city just 75 miles miles from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. So far, the group, also known as ISIS, has succeeded in outgunning the Iraqi forces in the city, but a new contingent of American Marines might change the outcome on the ground.

“Several weeks ago, thousands of Iraqi troops began occupying a tactical assembly area in Makhmur. This is part of the force generation associated with the liberation of Mosul,” Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in a press briefing this week. Mosul is the de facto ISIS headquarters in Iraq. “These Iraqi forces, along with their coalition advisers, require force protection,” Warren said. “So we constructed a small fire base to do just that.”

The U.S. Marines in Iraq are on the front line and have been tasked with protecting Iraqi units in Makhmur — a scenario President Barack Obama wanted to avoid as long as possible during his time in office.

The deployment of the U.S. Marines comes at a time when Iraqi forces are struggling to keep ISIS at bay

In a statement before meeting with congressional leaders on Sept. 3, 2013, Obama talked about his plan to combat ISIS and said: “The key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by our Joint Chiefs — and that I believe is appropriate — is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan.”

There are now more than 3,200 U.S. personnel in Iraq. Many have been tasked with training Iraqi soldiers, but others, such as the new contingent of Marines, are in active battles or are leading special operations to rescue hostages. Two American soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S. deployed soldiers last year.

The deployment of the U.S. Marines comes at a time when Iraqi forces are struggling to keep ISIS at bay. Over the past year, the Iraqi forces, which consist of Kurdish soldiers and members of the Iraqi security forces, have fought the militant group with a limited amount of weapons and ammunition.

At a base in Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq, in June 2014, Brig. Gen. Shaher, a commander of a group of Kurdish fighters, stood on top of a small house, gazing east through his binoculars, blocking the blinding sun with his right hand. With his left, he pulled his belt that fastened his blue camouflage suit above his protruding stomach. He didn’t look much like a fighter.

Anyone who looked through the binoculars could see the dusty lot behind the peshmerga base, filled with just a few tanks that men there said needed maintenance and new parts. The Kurdish soldiers were relying on faulty AK-47s and old, rickety vehicles to fight the militants, who had shiny, new anti-tank artillery — all purchased from the massive amount of oil produced and sold each day.

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