The United States has deployed a force of 160 American Army soldiers in an effort to seize back Ramadi from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq, according to Arab media.
Iraqi security forces told Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat that the U.S. soldiers landed at a military base east of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest and westernmost province, Israel’s Walla news reported Saturday.
Hundreds of American military personnel are already stationed at Iraq’s Habbaniyah air base as part of the U.S.-led train-and-equip mission.
The arrival of the 160 soldiers marks the first that a U.S. fighting force has arrived in Anbar, noted the Walla article.
Al-Araby al-Jadeed quoted an Iraqi military official as saying, “The new forces’ mission does not appear to be training the Iraqi army or the tribes fighting with me. We expect that they will provide direct support in the upcoming battle to retake Ramadi.”
“We are looking at how best to support local ground forces in Anbar, including accelerating the training and equipping of local tribes and supporting an Iraqi-led operation to retake Ramadi,” Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The American troops are expected to participate in an operation to root out ISIS from Ramadi located 70 miles west of Baghdad, the reports claim.
Mahmoud Hussein Al-Alwani, a leader of one of Anbar’s militias fighting against ISIS, reportedly said, “The American fighting force’s arrival to Anbar gives a major military momentum to combat troops, because this force is armed better and has better experience fighting battles in cities,” adding that the “popular crowd’s presence in the province over the past months has hampered liberating it and delayed international aid, especially American aid.”
ISIS seized Ramadi in mid-May, dealing a major blow to the Iraqi troops, who had been fighting the jihadists inside the city for more than a year.
“Coalition forces bombed a key jihadist command and supply hub in the Ramadi area last week,” reports The Times of Israel. “A video of the strike on a football stadium showed a massive secondary explosion at the site.”
“The stadium was a key [ISIS] command and supply hub in the Ramadi region and was being used to store large amounts of homemade explosives, weapons and ammunition,” the U.S.-led coalition combating the jihadist group, which has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.
“Destroying this hub will significantly disrupt [ISIS’] ability to conduct operations and resupply their fighters in Ramadi,” the statement continued.
The coalition has been conducting daily airstrikes against ISIS in coordination with Iraqi forces on the ground since August 2014. Iraqi security forces have made little progress in combating ISIS on the ground.
President Obama vowed not to involve U.S. ground combat troops in the coalition against ISIS.