The Obama administration has authorized the deployment of 200-plus additional troops to Iraq, which would bring the total number already there to more than 4,000.
Most of the new service members will reportedly be special operators, particularly U.S. Army Green Berets. They are expected to help the Iraqi security forces take back Mosul from the Islamic State with the assistance of eight Apache attack helicopters and more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (or HIMARS).
“The additional U.S. forces will serve in advisory and training roles in the fight against the militant group ahead of a planned offensive to retake Mosul, the largest city under the extremists’ control,” reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
“The 217 additional troops will increase the formal number of U.S. service members on the ground in Iraq to 4,087 from 3,870. This tally doesn’t count forces on temporary duty or those attached to the embassy,” it adds. “Including those personnel, the number of U.S. troops is about 5,000.”
On Monday, the Pentagon explained that the U.S. troops would embed with their Iraqi counterparts down the battalion level for the first time since the U.S.-led offensive against ISIS began last year.
“Previously, U.S. forces had assisted Iraqi troops only in much larger formations: at the brigade and division level,” notes WSJ.
“This will put Americans closer to the action,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters in Baghdad.
Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told reporters that more American troops could be deployed.
If the 217 additional troops are not enough, “we’ll have another discussion about” more U.S. troops, said the general.
Among the 217 additional troops will be advisers, force protection units, as well as logistical and aviation support, points out Stars and Stripes.
“Most of the advisers are expected to be special forces operators who will work with smaller-sized units then they had previously to provide tactical guidance as the Iraqi army’s 15th Division advances toward Mosul,” notes Stars and Stripes.
“The Obama administration is facing pressure to become more involved on the ground in Iraq to retake and hold territory held by Islamic State,” WSJ reports. “So far, U.S. troops have backed the Iraqi security forces as part of an ‘advise and assist’ mission, where the U.S. aids the Iraqis by offering money and training, plus airstrikes, firepower and tactical know-how.”