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U.S. to Send More Troops to Iraq Ahead of Mosul Battle | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This file photo taken on January 26, 2016 shows US soldiers speaking as they train Iraq’s 72nd Brigade taking part in a live-fire exercise in Basmaya base, southeast of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, AFP

The United States announced on Wednesday that President Obama had approved sending an additional 600 new troops to Iraq to assist local forces in the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS that is expected later this year.

“American President Barack Obama was consulted on a request from the Iraqi government for a final increase in the number of trainers and advisers under the umbrella of the international coalition in Iraq,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement.

“We’ve said all along – whenever we see opportunities to accelerate the campaign, we want to seize them,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

Some of the 615 new service members will be based at Qayara air base, about 40 miles (60 km) from Mosul, Carter said. Iraqi forces recaptured the base from ISIS militants in July and have been building it into a logistics hub to support their offensive into the northern city.

Other U.S. troops will go to Ain al Asad air base in western Iraq, where hundreds of U.S. personnel have been training Iraqi army forces.

Though Iraqi forces will be in the combat role, “American forces combating ISIS in Iraq are in harms way,” Carter said. “No one should be in any doubt about that.”

Three U.S. service members have been killed in direct combat since the launch of the U.S. campaign against Islamic State.

Abadi met Obama and Vice President Joe Biden last week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, though it was not clear whether the agreement was sealed there.

The United States currently has 4,565 troops in Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition providing extensive air support, training and advice to the Iraqi military, which collapsed in 2014 in the face of ISIS’ lightning advance towards Baghdad.

The United States has gradually increased the number of U.S. troops in Iraq this year, and moved them closer to the front lines of battle. Obama approved sending 560 more troops to Iraq in July, three months after the United States said it would dispatch about 200 more troops there.

Source: Reuters