During his visit to Baghdad today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with Iraqi leaders, coalition commanders and USA troops and also announced that the United States, in close consultation with the Iraqi government, will have an additional 560 troops to deploy to Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a DoD news release.
Iraqi forces backed by US -led airstrikes have retaken an air base from ISIS near Mosul, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday. That brings the total number of USA servicemen in Iraq to around 4,600.
He revealed President Barack Obama's decision as he spoke to about 120 troops in a building at Baghdad's airport, shielded from scorching desert hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He was in Iraq for meetings with Iraqi leaders to discuss the next steps in the anti-Islamic State group campaign. The additional troops will provide logistical and other support for the Mosul offensive. "It will help speed up the offensive on Mosul".
Daesh, an extremist Sunni group, captured Mosul and large swathes of territory in the northern and western parts of the country in 2014.
"What I'll be discussing with Prime Minister Abadi and our commanders there are the next plays in the campaign, which involve the collapse and control over Mosul", he said.
IS also holds territory in neighboring Syria, but has lost significant ground in both countries, and Carter wants to highlight successes, even as the jihadists have struck back with devastating attacks in Iraq and overseas.
A senior defense official says it's not clear when US advisers will begin accompanying battalions closer to the battlefront.
President Barack Obama has approved the additional deployment announced Monday, which will bring the total number of USA servicemen in Iraq to around 4,600.
The Pentagon said the new USA forces will include engineers, logistics personnel and other military advisors, and that Qayara will "become a vital springboard" to retake Mosul.
The recapture of Mosul, on major supply roads running further north to the borders of Syria and Turkey, would be a major boost for the Iraqi government and USA plans to weaken the group which has launched and inspired attacks in the West.
But while that goal has been reached, US official say additional training might be needed for those groups.
The Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency has also been directed to give additional assistance to Baghdad against IED attacks after almost 300 Iraqis were killed in a July 3 blast at a bustling shopping mall in Karrada district.
It comes a day after the Iraqi troops liberated the Qayyarah airbase some 60 miles south of Mosul from Daesh militants. The U.S. official says a team of American troops went into Qayara for a quick site assessment Sunday and left.
And late Thursday, an attack at a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad killed 37 people.