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Finally: New Rules of Engagement for U.S. Troops in Iraq

As the utterly pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, going on 16 years after 9/11, the U.S. has finally moved to cut some of the bureaucratic red tape that's prevented our troops from getting the job done for the past eight years:

Just a few months ago, Lt. Col. Browning's phone conversation would have been impossible. Rather than request assistance directly, his call would have likely been routed through a joint command center much farther from the battle zone.

In the fight against ISIS in Mosul, the United States has adjusted its rules of engagement as American and other international troops are now closer to front-line fighting than before. During the push to take Mosul International Airport on Thursday, American and European advisers were embedded with forward Iraqi rapid response and special forces units.

Coalition officials say the changes are helping speed up Iraqi military gains, but they mark a steady escalation of U.S. involvement in Iraq that also reflects lingering shortcomings on the part of Iraq's armed forces and growing political and military pressure to finish the Mosul operation quickly. This closer relationship is new.

In the lead-up to the operation to retake Mosul, U.S. forces steadily increased their footprint in Iraq, increasing the number of troops in the country and moving outposts closer to front-line fighting. But the number of U.S. forces on or near the front lines remained relatively small.

Under the December directive and an additional directive issued a few weeks ago, Browning said advisers like him embedded at the brigade level are now able to directly deliver support such as airstrikes and artillery fire to the units they're partnered with. Previously, such support "would have gone through a whole bureaucracy and through Baghdad," he said.

The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, confirmed to The Associated Press the rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS in Iraq were adjusted by the December directive, explaining that some coalition troops were given the "ability to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell."

Its about time. One of the reasons, historically, that American forces have been superior is that combat decisions were made on the ground, right down to the junior officer level; this was one of our strategic advantages over the Wehrmacht in World War II. But of course under the Democrats (and, to be fair, under Bush as well), American troops were hobbled so as not to give offense to our "coalition partners" and to mollify the excitable locals.