by WorldTribune Staff, September 29, 2016
The United States has deployed 615 additional troops to Iraq as preparation intensifies for the battle to liberate Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
The new deployment puts the number of American troops on the ground in Iraq at over 5,000 for the first time since 2011, when President Barack Obama announced what he said was the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.
“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, according to Reuters. Though Iraqi forces will be doing the fighting, “American forces combating ISIL in Iraq are in harm’s way.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it would be the “final increase” in U.S. troops before operations to take back Mosul begin, likely in mid-October.
“We emphasize that the role of the (U.S.) trainers and advisers is not combat, but for training and consultation only,” Abadi said on Sept. 28. “It is our troops who will liberate the land.”
Obama administration officials estimate that ISIL has 3,000 to 4,000 fighters in Mosul.
Most of the newly-deployed U.S. troops will support the fight to retake Mosul from al-Asad air base in Anbar province, about 100 miles west of Baghdad, and Qayara airfield, roughly 40 miles south of the ISIL stronghold, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said on Sept. 28.
Davis said U.S. advisers are helping various factions on the ground in Iraq construct small firebases and camps in strategic areas around Mosul. He said the bases, along with a main U.S. military logistics hub in the town of Qayara, will serve as “jumping-off points” for 14 Iraqi army brigades and thousands of Kurdish peshmerga and mostly Shi’ite militia fighters to advance on Mosul.