News / USA

Legal Questions Hold Up US Special Forces in Iraq

Demonstrators supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carry al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters, Mosul, June 16, 2014.
Demonstrators supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carry al-Qaida flags in front of the provincial government headquarters, Mosul, June 16, 2014.

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Despite this week's announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama, the first U.S. military advisers on the ground in Baghdad have yet to start assessing the situation and how best to help Iraqi security forces fight back advancing Sunni militants.

According to a U.S. defense official, the wait is due to concerns over legal protections for U.S. forces, including immunity for military personnel from the Iraqi judicial system.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Friday the first teams of military advisers are still expected to start work within days.

“We’re working this carefully through the Iraqi government," he said. "[U.S. forces] will have the protections they need.”

Similar differences in 2011 scuttled a status of forces agreement that would have allowed thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, but Kirby says this is different.

“What we’re talking about here is a very small number, up to 300, whose mission will be of a limited duration,” he said.

The Pentagon expects additional teams of advisers to arrive in Baghdad within the next week or so, and a defense official says the advisers, mostly U.S. Army Special Forces, are also expected to make contact with the Peshmerga, Kurdish fighters in the north, and the Shi’ite militias currently helping to bolster Iraqi security forces around Baghdad.

In the meantime, the United States continues to fly 24-hour surveillance over parts of Iraq.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula says the drones in particular should be giving the U.S. a good read on the situation on the ground.

“These aircraft provide a venue to spend 10, 15, 20, 25 hours staring at a location of interest so you can watch where ISIS is coming from. You can identify where they’re moving," he said.

For now, the Pentagon says indications are that militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant still craves more territory and show no signs of backing down.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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Comment Sorting
by: brittwalden from: nc
June 21, 2014 11:16 AM
Went into Iraq using lies&deceit, back in Iraq using same method. The American citizens must be some of the most gutless people on Earth. My son/daughter wouldn't be allowed
to drop one drop of Blood on the ground in Iraq. Most citizens show very little concern for loss of life here, let alone in Iraq. Let those who Love War send their family members to these countries.
In Response

by: jack from: ptown
June 22, 2014 10:37 AM
Britt. You are such a coward.

by: John
June 21, 2014 7:10 AM
Still think the US would be better off investing any money it has to spare in synthetic oil plants. The Middle East could then be abandoned. As for terrorism from ISIS' new state, one must note that the US gave the Afghan people support to avert their takeover by the USSR. It then left Afghanistan alone, as it knew that the Afghans wouldn't like American domination any better than that of the Russians. The Afghans then provided a base for the attack on the US. The US then attempted to establish a peaceful, modern state in Afghanistan. None of this has worked. There is no reason to expect that anything would work better in northern Iraq. Obama's policy of having the drones drone overhead, blowing to pieces anyone who holds their mouth wrong, at least has the advantage that it's relatively cheap. I can't see that any more expensive commitment will do any good.
In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 22, 2014 9:30 PM
You mean for America to spend money in a practical and rational way...? In a way to actually do some good...? That is a crazy thought, for sure. Crazy enough, that it just might work....

Naw, who am I fooling, it will never happen....

by: RationalRick from: USA
June 21, 2014 12:42 AM
If I recall correctly the first thing al Maliki did when General Petraus and the US gave him a stable Iraq was to fly to Iran and kiss the ring of his Iranian handlers. Subsequently he has followed his predecessor Nimrod and put the country into position for partition. I'm sure the Iranians are telling Nimrod not to sign the Status of Forces Agreement, "they will take care of him". Right. It will be West Iran up to Bagdad. Let Iraq be partitioned, it will let us concentrate ISIS in NW Iraq and Syria where we can pound them.

by: robertsgt40 from: texas
June 20, 2014 11:37 PM
"Legal questions"? LMAO With 1.3m dead Iraqis and 5m refugees, and two illegal wars, there are legal concerns, this is rich. Why observe international law now?

by: meanbill from: USA
June 20, 2014 7:57 PM
TRUTH BE TOLD -- The only thing holding up sending US adviser troops to Iraq, (is the demand by the US), that Iraq sign an "Unequal Treaty" giving US troops immunity from prosecution, for killing innocent Iraqi men, women and children and babies, (and), it's the same "Unequal Treaty" Maliki and Karzai, refused to sign before...

THE US "Unequal Treaty" gives the US authority to hunt and kill suspected enemies of America only, (who may, or may not be), Sunni anti-Iraq government terrorist fighters, and gives the US permission to kill innocent Shia Iraqi men, women and children and babies, along with the suspected US enemies, without fearing prosecution..

The US considers those Sunni who fight the Syrian government, (and those who the US arms and support), as being non-targeted pro-western Sunni extremists -- (and the suspected terrorists, are the one's who the US considers enemies of America) -- (AND?) -- the enemies of Iraq, may not be considered enemies of America, (and in fact), they may be armed, trained and supported by America.. ...... REALLY
In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 22, 2014 9:25 PM
I don't think I need to add any relevant comments, many have already done so, in far better terms than I could ever have come up with.
The whole "killing babies" theme was started wayyyy back in the 60's, by the Anti-war movement. I know my taste in music is sort of 'stuck' in the 60s and 70s, but that is all. It was lies then, it is still all lies today. Hard to believe that odd rhetoric is still around today.....
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 21, 2014 8:49 AM
Come on meanbill! Larry, is that you? You should really study much more indepth what UNEQUAL TREATIES are. FIRST! It does not proctect US military from war crimes. Your ignorance amuses me. SECOND! Unequal Treaties are tools to ensure a sustainable government. THIRD!!!!! It does not grant permission for the US military to commit war crimes (have you lost your mind!!). FORTH, pay attention (since I'm sure you are still basking in your ignorance), Unequal Treaties involve more than just the US! Didn't we have this discussion before? Research "Unequal Treaties" yourself, homeboy. You have to ask yourself "Gee, I wonder what would have happened if the treaty was signed?"

Let's focus on the underlying theme here, OK. Obama was raised a Sunni Muslim. He did bow to the leader of the Sunni peoples, that Saudi Arabia guy, can't remember his name, genuinely do not care. Suadi Arabia is the heart of the Sunni Muslims, with Indonesia being the most populous Sunni country. Hmmmm, where did Obama receive his schooling and Muslim indoctrination?????

Bear with me, brother, I love ya and do value your opinions, OK. But maybe a little less America bashing, and a little more insight of what we are really deealing with. Face it, no matter what we do, how we do it, Muslims of all Islamic faiths will hate us, they have to, it's not an option for them, ever. The reason they hate us is not because of our politics, Western cultures, or the prying into their's because we have a pulse, and that offends ALL OF THEM! No matter what we do, or don't do, that will not change one bit. We have tried to assist the Sunnis in Syria because they were being brutally murdered by the Syrian regime. Yep, the same group is now terrorizing and murdering the Shias, because they feel they have the right. You talk about women and children being murdered and raped, like it's nothing! Nobody deserves this from anyone, EVER! Not in the Muslim world, India, Nigeria, NOWHERE! So the next time you wish to express your anti-American rhetoric, keep this simple fact in mind: My country is not it's government, it's the people, you and me, all of us. Pick on the Obama administration, or blame Bush (yeah, people are still hanging onto the blame-Bush campaign), but don't dare insult America again. Or leave and find someplace better.....good luck with that.
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 21, 2014 12:55 AM
So Iraq should handle this civil war on its own. If they don't trust our troops then they should not be over there. I am not debating whether or not the distrust is valid. You don't trust our troops and mission, then fine, handle it on your own.
In Response

by: jeff from: Illinois
June 21, 2014 12:47 AM
You, my good sir, need to stop drinking the proverbial koolaid and get off this whole "Americans are blood thirsty murderer" bs that you seem to thrive on. Stop reading propaganda and learn facts. Butbof won't because you "know" the facts right?!
In Response

by: Michael
June 21, 2014 12:43 AM
The US has this agreement with every country they are based in.
In Response

by: ed bowie from: oregon
June 21, 2014 12:30 AM
you really think all 300 are going to come back?
In Response

by: Mike
June 21, 2014 12:19 AM
Right, because the men and women in our armed forces just love to kill babies. Dude you are on crack! You know nothing about what you talk about!
In Response

by: bill from: portland
June 21, 2014 12:04 AM
come on, we just need confirmation that their wack government isn't going to prosecute our guys while helping them. get real, suggesting that we are over there to kill babies without prosecution. .........Really
In Response

by: wonderYrednow from: Venice, CA
June 21, 2014 12:00 AM
Or the US could just use those drones to launch Hellfire missiles indiscriminately on targets of unknown value....oops, that would be bad.
In Response

by: me from: USA
June 20, 2014 11:49 PM
You are a idiot
In Response

by: indio007 from: Cambridge Ma
June 20, 2014 11:49 PM
Your 100% correct. They did the same thing during the first invasion with the so called Coalition Provisional Authority. Like CP Order 17

"Contractors shall not be subject to Iraqi laws or regulations in matters relating to the terms and conditions of their Contracts"
In Response

by: GI JOE from: USA
June 20, 2014 11:48 PM
meanbill, This is a bogus conspiracy theory. Terrorist come in all shapes and forms and need to be stopped by the greater good of all people. Political, Religion and Economics aside, Any entity claiming to destroy another is evil in every sense of the word.
The iraqi people have to fight for themselves, to attain true democracy.
In Response

by: Bill from: USA
June 20, 2014 11:43 PM
Actually it's about making sure US troops can't be caught up in a foreign and potentially hostile judicial system. They are still subject to court martial for crimes against humanity. Gives US permission to kill babies? REALLY? do you REALLY think that about the US
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 20, 2014 11:43 PM
So.... a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is an unequal treaty when America puts its troops lives on the line? A SOFA agreement is the least the Iraqi government can do.

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