Boots back on the ground: New deployment raises total U.S. presence in Iraq over 5,000

by WorldTribune Staff, July 12, 2016

The United States will deploy 560 additional troops to Iraq, raising the U.S. presence in the country to over 5,000.

The deployment comes two years after President Barack Obama had vowed that, while the United States would help Iraq reclaim territory from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), its efforts would “not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”

U.S. Marines at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. /Photo by Cpl. John Baker/Marine Corps
U.S. Marines at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. /Photo by Cpl. John Baker/Marine Corps
[The official estimate of 4,647 troops in Iraq understates the actual number of American boots on the ground. The Pentagon uses a system for counting troops that excludes commandos and those who are supposed to be stationed in the country for less than four months.]

The Pentagon said the deployment was made to assist Iraqi forces as they prepare an offensive aimed at retaking Mosul from ISIL.

Many of the newly deployed troops will be based at an airfield 40 miles south of Mosul that was reclaimed by Iraqi soldiers on July 9.

“We need to move to this place to be as close to the fighting as we have been,” said Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, the head of American forces in Iraq.

Obama will leave his successor with a significant military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, the president announced the U.S. would keep 8,400 troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

“The president has been very clear about what our mission is and what our mission isn’t,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on July 11. “This is an effort to reinforce our support for Iraqi forces that are enjoying some success in driving ISIL out of strategic, important areas in Iraq, that can put them in a position to succeed on a much bigger goal: driving ISIL out of Iraq’s second largest city.”