It’s unclear if the deployment of 1,500 troops is part of a regular troop rotation or a reinforcement.
The New Jersey National Guard is preparing to deploy 1,500 troops to Iraq and Syria amid a spate of attacks on US bases in the two countries that started in mid-October over President Biden’s full-throated support of Israel’s onslaught in Gaza.
It’s unclear if the deployment is part of a scheduled troop rotation or if they’re being sent to reinforce the US military presence in the region. According to the latest figures, there are about 2,500 US troops stationed in Iraq and 900 in Syria, where they back the Kurdish-led SDF, allowing the US to occupy and control about one-third of Syrian territory.
According to the Pentagon, US troops in Iraq and Syria have come under at least 130 rocket, drone, and mortar attacks since October 17, and the attacks have injured 69 American soldiers. An umbrella group of Shia militias that calls itself the Islamic Resistance of Iraq has taken credit for most attacks.
The US has launched several rounds of airstrikes against Shia militias since October, enraging the Iraqi government, which is now calling for an end to the US presence. In response to the news of 1,500 US troops being prepared to deploy, Iraq denied that the US was sending reinforcements. “Iraq does not need any foreign troops,” said Tahseen al-Khafaji, a spokesman for the Iraqi Operations Command.
The US leads an international coalition in Iraq, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, that helps fight ISIS, although these days it’s clear the US presence is more about countering Iran. The US military is still involved in anti-ISIS operations in Iraq, but the Iraqi government has said its forces can handle the remnants of the terror group.
CBS News reported on the New Jersey National Guard being deployed to the region and portrayed it only as a deployment against ISIS. The report did not mention the recent spate of attacks against US forces. The deployment will be the largest of New Jersey National Guard soldiers since 2008.