When Ryan Gill left Iraq in 2009, the police he had helped train had come a long way but were not quite ready to fight on their own.
Gill, now a University of Missouri student, served in Iraq with the 1175th Military Police Company from February 2008 to February 2009. He told KRCG 13 Thursday he trained police in Samarra and guarded bridges in Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq. By the time he left, he said Iraqi forces were "getting there" but still depended on the Americans for backup. Mosul fell to insurgents last week and Samarra is currently under siege.
On Thursday afternoon, President Barack Obama laid out his plan for assisting Iraq with the growing threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a sunni extremist group which has seized huge swaths of territory in those two countries.
"Mosul was a pretty hard pill to swallow," he said. "We had a few casualties in Mosul."
Obama told reporters the United States would send up to 300 military advisers to the country to help set up joint operations centers. The U.S. would also continue reconaissance missions and, if necessary, carry out targeted military operations, most likely air strikes. The president repeatedly stressed the U.S. would not commit combat troops to the region.
Gill said the impact those advisers would have is hard to say because they could take on any number of roles, such as embedding with Iraqi forces or conducting large-scale operations on their own. He said it is possible the deployment of those advisers might escalate into a larger commitment but added it was unlikely given the lack of public support for a broader intervention.
Gill said America's military options are limitless, but virtually any action will have serious diplomatic consequences.
"Let's say we topple this Sunni terror cell," he said. "If we do that, the implications that are going to be involved from other terror cells that sympathize with ISIS, it's very easy to create quite a few enemies."
Gill said the enmity between Iraq's Sunni and Shia sects is extremely complex, with any violence between the two traceable to hundreds of years of prior conflict. He said the two sects' relationship was always fragile when he was in the country.