This is a good read regarding the fight against ISIS, its complexities, and the degree to which Americans are helping. Sounds like there are more Americans (no surprise) than we've been led to believe; they're using the trick they used when I was serving in Vietnam. Namely, troops are assigned there TDY, "temporary duty," and aren't counted. As if they're not there.
I recall the day Nixon announced that the last Marines had left Vietnam. On that day, my base in Danang was crawling with Marines, all TDY from the Phillippines.
An interesting takeaway is that it seems Obama would rather be criticized for not having enough troops in the fight, than reveal how many are actually there.
Still, no matter what the actual number of Americans is, it seems that the strategy is the one that makes most sense, Republican war-mongering notwithstanding: our troops are, indeed, in advisory roles, with the actual fighting being mostly carried out by Kurds and Iraqis. Who mostly hate each other.
From the article:
... The U.S. mission includes training and reëquipping the Iraqis, providing intelligence and airpower, advising and coördinating strategy, and, crucially, keeping the Iraqis united and focussed on Mosul rather than on each other. “We all know that if they do this on their own, it will be more longer-lasting . . . win for the future of Iraq,” Major General Richard Clarke, the commander of coalition land forces in Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters last month.
But the same problems that undermined the first American deployment now threaten the second. The prospects of liberating Mosul—and then stabilizing it—are already bogged down in internecine politics. The disparate factions don’t trust each other. The Peshmerga are wary of fighting alongside an army that killed tens of thousands of its people and gassed Kurdish villages with chemical weapons during Saddam Hussein’s rule. The reconstituted Iraqi Army virtually collapsed under the current government. Today, both sides are less than keen about fighting alongside each other or, together, forging a viable Day After...This is pretty much how I see it, too: that it won't happen without American involvement, but that involvement needs to be, as the article says, too, like that of a coach of a sports team: provide the equipment, the knowledge, the training, and then watch from the sidelines as it plays out. Other than targeting and bombing, of course. Which they're doing. A lot.
If that's what it takes, it's by no means certain it'll work, with all the internecine tribalism and religious differences. Sorta like here: Trump might lose, but the people who could see him as the perfect leader will still be around. Same with Cruz. We'll always have Paris.