"It's a rapidly deteriorating situation," said Rick Nelson, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's a hot war. They have to get in and help stop the bleeding to get the Iraqi forces to be able to maintain stability and security in the country."
Brig. Gen. Darsie Rogers, head of Army Special Forces Command, said Green Berets currently are conducting training missions in 30 countries and do so in more than 150 nations each year. Highly trained in special warfare and counterinsurgency, the teams routinely are used to help other countries build and improve their militaries.
The latest Iraq mission, Rogers said, is more akin to what special forces have been doing in Afghanistan and the Philippines and what they did in Iraq during the war years. But it's a bit larger than similar missions going on around the world, including a number of countries in Africa.
Rogers, who served in Iraq, said the assessment phase will be important in determining how to go forward but, "having some experience with that, I think that we will rather quickly understand where we need to apply our assistance."
The teams will determine how the U.S. can best help the Iraqi forces, then the additional teams will deploy. They are expected to help the Iraqis improve their military systems and commands, but not embed with the fighting units or engage in direct combat.
Rogers also noted that a number of U.S. special forces have served in Iraq.
"The relationships that we have with the Iraqis, at least those that I had while I was there, were very strong, and I'm sure that we'll be able to capitalize on this as we go back in," Rogers said.
Still, Dubik said that while the commandos will provide important short-term help for the Iraq forces, they will not be sufficient to solve the problem. Instead, he said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki needs to make several critical political moves, including disbanding the office of the commander in chief, which has been blamed for roiling sectarian divisions and pushing a Shiite agenda.