Obama authorizes 1,500 additional US troops for deployment to Iraq

Soldiers to serve "in a non-combat role, to expand our advise and assist mission and initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces," the Pentagon announced on Friday.

By REUTERS
November 7, 2014 23:30
1 minute read.
Iraqi Shi'ite fighter

Shi'ite fighters participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - The United States will send 1,500 additional troops to Iraq to serve "in a non-combat role, to expand our advise and assist mission and initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces," the Pentagon announced on Friday.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel "made this recommendation to President Barack Obama based on the request of the government of Iraq" and on "US Central Command's assessment of Iraqi units," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The deployment would roughly double the number already there to advise and retrain Iraqi forces battling Islamic State militants, US officials said on Friday.

The United States has about 1,400 troops in Iraq, slightly below a previous limit of 1,600.

The Pentagon said it planned to establish several sites across the country to train nine Iraqi army brigades and three brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. They will be set up in northern, western and southern Iraq.

The U.S. military would also establish "advise and assist" operations centers, adding to similar centers already set up in Baghdad and Arbil.

Alarmed by the advance of Islamic State militants across Iraq, Obama began sending non-combatant troops back to Iraq in the summer for the first time since US forces withdrew from the country in 2011.

One US military official said one location military advisors would head to soon was western Anbar province, which borders Syria and where Islamic State fighters are still on the offensive.

Iraq's main military divisions in Anbar - the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and twelfth - have been badly damaged. At least 6,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed through June and double that number has deserted, say medical and diplomatic sources.

The announcement came the same day that Obama met members of Congress at the White House, where he updated them on the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria.

The White House will ask Congress for $5.6 billion for the operations in Iraq and Syria, which includes $1.6 billion for the new "Iraq Train and Equip Fund," the White House Office of Management and Budget said.

Obama has launched air strikes against Islamic State targets in both Syria and Iraq, but he has ruled out sending ground troops into combat.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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