Congress is gearing up for the next big budget battle, and the Administration’s latest funding request could stir tensions between the midterm election’s winners and losers.
This week President Obama approved deployment of an additional 1,500 U.S. soldiers to help train Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their battle against ISIS. The additional forces and support activities will tack on an additional $5.6 billion to the budget, but defense officials argue that continuing success in the region means putting more resources to the task:
Lately, with the aid of the U.S. strikes, the Islamic State has suffered a number of losses in Iraq, where it is fighting government forces, peshmerga and Shiite militias aided by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Last week, Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Jurf al-Sakher. ISIS also lost Rabia, Mahmoudiyah and Zumar, a string of towns near the Syrian border, last month. Besieged Iraqi troops have also managed to maintain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery outside the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, despite numerous attempts by the Islamic State group to capture it.
At the same time, some have warned the U.S. operation is insufficient. In particular, there have been calls to send troops to the western Anbar province, where extremists have been slaughtering men, women and children.
A senior military official said one of the operations centers being set up by the U.S. will be in Anbar Province, and that it is likely that the bulk of the additional troops will be in Iraq by the end of the year.
The money will also go toward “replenishing or replacing munitions expended while conducting air strikes against ISIL, including from Air force and Navy platforms” as well as “financing operations and maintenance costs for air, ground and naval operations, including: flying hours; ship steaming days; and fuel, supplies and repair parts,” according to the White House.
The elephant in the room, of course, is this past week’s elections, which many believe served as a mandate against President Obama’s policies at home and abroad. The media has already begun to hint at trouble brewing for this new mission and its funding.
“The President took these decisions at the request of the Iraqi Government and upon the recommendation of Secretary Hagel and his military commanders based upon the assessed needs of the Iraqi Security Forces,” the statement said.
“We believe this request is an opportunity for Congress and this Administration to work together to provide the additional resources needed to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL and I look forward to working with Congress to secure this funding,” said Shaun Donovan, Obama’s budget director.
The budget request marks an early test for cooperation between Obama and congressional leaders following the Republican rout in this week’s midterm elections that reshaped Washington’s balance of power.
This is an interesting (if not convenient) narrative to apply to the situation, considering that the Administration’s decisions regarding our part in the battle against ISIS have spurred disagreement between power players in Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Back in September, I wrote that the midterm elections would drastically affect the course of our actions in Iraq. The problem with the current narrative, then, is that it assumes (conveniently) that any dissension in the Beltway ranks will come as a result of this week’s Republican victories.
We may have won big on Tuesday, but don’t forget that the next two years are going to be a constant battle—both against media narratives like the one CNN hints at, and against Democrats in Washington who will seize onto those narratives and cry “obstruction” every chance they get.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.