Wed | Aug 23, 2017

More troops for Iraq to reclaim Mosul

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2016 | 9:00 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP):

The United States is sending 615 more troops to Iraq as the stage is set for an Iraqi-led battle to reclaim Mosul, the northern city that has been the Islamic State group's main stronghold for more than two years. The offensive, starting as soon as October, looms as a decisive moment for Iraq and for President Barack Obama's much-criticised strategy to defeat IS.

"These forces will be primarily to enable Iraqi security forces and also (Kurdish) Peshmerga in the operations to isolate and collapse ISIL's control over Mosul, but also to protect and expand Iraqi security forces' gains elsewhere in Iraq," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Wednesday. The Peshmerga are Kurdish militia fighters who are generally among the most proficient ground forces in Iraq but whose role is politically sensitive there.

Carter said the extra Americans would perform multiple roles at multiple locations, including at Qaraya West air base south of Mosul, where they will be building up the base to make it a hub for Iraq forces, and at al-Asad air base in Anbar province more than 200 miles away, where they will strengthen supply lines for the movement of supplies north toward Mosul.

Obama approved the deployment, which Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said would total 615 troops who would begin moving out "very soon". Although the Americans are not to participate directly in combat, they may in some cases move forward with Iraqi combat forces and could face IS attacks.