Pakistan News

US to send 450 more troops to Iraq on training mission

US to send 450 more troops to Iraq on training mission

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of up to 450 more US troops to Iraq on Wednesday to advise and assist local forces in an effort to reverse the recent gains of the self-styled Islamic State group.

Under the plan, the United States will open a fifth training site in Iraq, with the goal of integrating Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni fighters. The immediate objective is to retake the city of Ramadi, seized by the Islamic State last month. Obama made the decision at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and based on advice from Pentagon leaders, the White House said. The US troops will not be used in a combat role.

“These new advisers will work to build capacity of Iraqi forces, including local tribal fighters, to improve their ability to plan, lead, and conduct operations against IS in eastern Anbar under the command of the prime minister,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

The IS extremists have seized sizeable areas of both Syria and Iraq. The plan is not a change in US strategy, the administration says

Questions remain about the Iraqi government’s commitment to recruit fighters, especially among Sunni tribesmen, to oust the IS from Ramadi and Fallujah, a nearby city the militants have held for more than a year. Up to now, Iraqi officials have chosen to deploy most US-trained Iraqi troops in defensive formations around Baghdad, the capital.

The new training site will be at al-Taqqadum, a desert air base that was a US military hub during the 2003-2011 war. The additional troops will include advisers, trainers, logisticians and security personnel.

There now are nearly 3,100 US troops in Iraq involved in training, advising, security and other support roles. The US also is flying bombing missions as well as aerial reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions against the IS forces, while counting on Iraqi ground troops to retake lost territory.

At a Capitol Hill news conference on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said sending several hundred military advisers to Iraq “is a step in the right direction”. But he repeatedly criticised Obama for not having “an overarching strategy” for dealing with the Islamic State.

Other critics, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, were dismissive of Wednesday’s decision. “This is incremental-ism at its best or worst, depending on how you describe it,” McCain said. The US mission at al-Taqqadum will be more about advising Iraqi forces on operations against the IS militants in Anbar than about providing individual troop training, a US official said.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2015

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