The U.S. military has established a Marine fire base, known as Fire Base Bell, in northern Iraq that serves as the first independent U.S. military position in the battle against ISIS and could be used for offensive operations against the terror group in the future.
The Washington Post reports:
Fire Base Bell hearkens back to the United States’ older wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where small outposts with names like Fire Base Phoenix and Combat Outpost Turbett were ubiquitous and where the creation of yet one more would only be noticed by the enemy and the troops that had to fill the sandbags. Yet in the fight against the Islamic State, the creation of a U.S. outpost indicates a noteworthy development in a battle that is largely fought from the skies. … Pentagon officials have insisted that the Marine fire base there is for “force protection” of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the region. Yet as Iraqi forces push the Islamic State from strongholds such as Ramadi and Hit in Anbar province with the help of U.S. artillery, it takes little imagination to see that Fire Base Bell represents an additional offensive capability for future operations in the lead up to and eventual battle for Mosul.
The existence of the fire base was first reported after Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed there in an ISIS rocket attack on Saturday. CNN, citing an unnamed defense official, reported that the Pentagon had planned to publicly acknowledge the fire base this week.
The fire base is located near Makhmour and approximately 50 miles from of Mosul, which functions as ISIS’ capital in Iraq.
The small artillery base is being manned by a detachment of the Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who began moving into the area two weeks ago and had finished setting up their artillery just days prior to Saturday’s attack. A defense official told Fox News that the count of Marines at Fire Base Bell is close to 180.
Several Marines were injured in the rocket attack that killed Cardin on Saturday. The fire base again came under attack from ISIS on Monday, though no American service members were killed or wounded in the latest attack.
The Pentagon expects that ISIS specifically targeted the Marines in the attack over the weekend and that such attacks will continue.